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State program hopes to get federal money to help make more Michigan homes energy efficient

Courtesy: Michigan Saves
Guaranteed loans make interest rates lower for people who go through the state government-created Michigan Saves.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is putting up $27 billion in grants to combat climate change through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Michigan wants some of that money. A quasi-governmental organization is planning to apply.

In 2009, the State of Michigan created a "green bank" called Michigan Saves. The organization guarantees loans from credit unions and other lenders. In exchange, the lenders lower interest rates to help homeowners to pay for home improvements that reduce fossil fuel use, such as high-efficiency appliances like furnaces, central air, and water heaters. That means lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Graham, Lester
Michigan Radio
Efficient heating/cooling and increased insulation help lower greenhouse gas emissions and help lower utility bills.

“The State of Michigan has supported us with public funds that we leverage with the private market, which is exactly what these EPA funds are intended to do,” said Mary Templeton, President and CEO of Michigan Saves.

At least 40% of the money is to go to underprivileged homes. There’s been a concerted effort by federal, state, and some municipal governments to ensure that climate change action plans don’t leave people with low incomes behind.

“It’s going to be able to accelerate our work, especially in environmental justice communities,” Templeton said.

Michigan Saves is joining other states’ green banks to compete for the grant money.

“We are working with the American Green Bank Consortium, which is a national group of green banks around the country, to submit one application to the EPA,” Templeton explained.

At this point, Michigan Saves doesn’t how much money it will get, but Templeton is confident sometime next year they’ll be able to guarantee even more loans.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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