By JACOB FISCHLER
Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- The state and the Energy Research and Development Authority announced Thursday the start of a program to provide homeowners with free or reduced-priced energy assessments and low-interest loans to finance energy-saving improvements.
The program comes from the Green Jobs-Green New York Act signed into law last year.
"The Green Jobs-Green NY program will build on the significant efforts our state has already taken to help put New Yorkers to work in the clean energy economy," Gov. David Paterson said in a statement.
Free energy audits will be available to anyone with an income up to 200 percent of their county's median income level.
Reduced price audits can also be attained by anyone making up to 400 percent of their county's median income.
The state will also provide loans to homeowners to fund projects to make their homes more energy efficient.
NYSERDA has launched the loan program for homeowners, but plans to roll out programs for small-business owners, not-for-profits and multifamily buildings in the coming months, according to NYSERDA spokesman Jeffrey Gordon.
The loans will be capped at $13,000 and can be taken out for periods of 5, 10 or 15 years at an initial interest rate of 3.99, but as low as 3.49 percent if the borrower signs up for automated monthly payments.
The loan program is funded by $112 million acquired by auctioning carbon emission credits through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a collaboration of 10 northeastern states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S Department of Energy also contributed $18.6 million to the program.
The money is expected to leverage investments from private organizations as well.
The program has a job-training component for entry-level workers and those who have been displaced from their previous job.
"The Green Jobs/Green New York program has the promise of significant jobs creation," said Dick Kornbluth, president of the board of directors for the Building Performance Contractors Association of New York State.
"These jobs will directly relate to saving energy and improving the quality of life of the residents of New York and they are jobs that cannot be exported.
Training will be provided for jobs in the energy fields, such as wind, geothermal and energy efficiency. Community organizations such as local colleges and other centers will provide training.
"It's an excellent program," said Stephen Leone, program coordinator at Westchester Community College. "The big thing with it now is just getting the homeowners to get the inspections done."
Training to become a building analyst at Westchester Community College course costs $1,245, and it costs $1,325 to be an envelope professional, which Leone said is one step up from being a building analyst. Certification test fees run $200.
Once the course is completed, the trained workers would able to go into houses and tell the owners what they need to do to save money on their energy bills, and how much it will cost.
The benefit, Leone said, is that people who call in an analyst to inspect their homes can save around 40 percent on their energy bill once they make all the recommended changes.
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