BERLIN- Guidelines for the Berlin energy audit assistance credit program were approved by the Berlin Town Council Monday night, setting in motion a town wide effort to encourage energy conservation through structural repairs.
The town has set aside $30,000 to fund electric bill credits triggered by improvements to a house’s energy efficiency, based on the recommendations of a free town energy audit on the structure.
Originally, the town planned to offer a credit of 10-percent of the amount spent on improvements, up to $2,500 worth of work, with the maximum credit limit at $250, but the town council asked staff to consider something different.
In October, council member Paula Lynch asked for a sliding scale on the credit amounts, saying that those who can least afford to make improvements need them the most.
Berlin town staff suggested a new approach this week, with improvements and materials up to $500 qualifying for a credit of 50-percent of the amount spent. Improvements over $500 qualify for a flat $250 credit, no matter how much the homeowner spends. Do-it-yourself projects are eligible for a credit on materials.
There is no time limit on when those repairs must he made after the audit is conducted, town administrator Tony Carson said. Mayor Gee Williams said time limits could curtail the effectiveness of the program.
“The idea here is to promote as much conservation as possible,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to penalize people for doing it.”
House owners are restricted to one credit per year. New, more energy efficient appliances are not eligible for the credit, the Berlin Town Council decided at an October meeting.
Council member Lisa Hall objected to the exclusion of HVAC systems from the list of eligible improvements, as HVAC systems are not appliances and the replacement of an old one will reduce energy bills. Hall is currently replacing the HVAC system in her house and says she expects her energy bill to go down in response.
Electric department director Dave Thomas can use his judgment going forward over what to include on the list of recommendations, Carson said.
Williams said that additions to the list of improvements covered by the audit assistance program can come up before the town council.
“I’m sure we’re going to get some gray areas,” Thomas said. “We can’t possibly cover everything.”
Property owners can also get the credit on improvements made after a private energy audit.
“That’s not a restriction at all,” said Williams. “The idea behind the program is to provide audits for free because some people in town cannot afford that service on their own.”
Williams said the intent of the program is to give residents an opportunity to conserve energy and save money.
“We basically want to give people an incentive to conserve energy,” said Williams. “And the most cost-efficient way to manage energy costs is by reducing energy usage.”