Oregon bill encourages energy efficiency upgrades

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by By RYAN KOST, Associated Press Writer

kgw.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 6 at 1:22 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon lawmakers hope to encourage property owners to invest in energy efficiency upgrades by expanding a state loan program.

A bipartisan group of legislators announced their plan Wednesday, saying the move would help combat climate change while also creating jobs throughout the state by dramatically increasing the number of efficiency projects each year.

The program would allow property owners to take out loans and grants, financed through state bonds, to help fund upgrades. They could repay the loan at a low interest rate over a long period time through their utility bills.

Sponsors said property owners would see an almost immediate decrease in their utility bill, even with the loan payment tacked on.

"We know that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects are good investments in the future," said state Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, one of the bill's chief sponsors.

The legislation does a number of things to encourage financing these products, including offering simplified payment options, a point of contact that helps plan and implement the projects and increased bond funding.

Bailey said tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects could be funded through the program if approved, the added benefit of which would be economic stimulus to the state.

The bill has attracted both Democratic and Republican sponsors. One of them, state Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, called the plan "the most cost-effective way to meet the challenges of climate change."

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., was also on hand to support the program, which he said could become a national model.

"I will be watching very carefully what these gentleman and their colleagues do," Blumenauer said. "I think the work that they're going to be doing can have broad national implications."

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