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Published: Wednesday, 9/9/2009

Ohio promotes green energy; state treasurer to unveil loan program in Toledo

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A new state program to help consumers finance their home's energy-efficiency improvements, such as adding insulation, buying a new refrigerator, or installing solar panels, is to be unveiled in Toledo Wednesday.

The program - which uses the interest generated from state deposits to subsidize the interest rate on home equity or installment loans used to reduce consumer energy usage - is called ECO-Link. It is to be rolled out this morning by Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce at the downtown world headquarters of Owens Corning.

"We're launching this in Toledo, because Toledo has really been the leader in Ohio in terms of energy conservation and energy efficiency," Mr. Boyce said yesterday. "This program will be available statewide, but we're going to focus our efforts right now just in Toledo, because we know that's where the interest exists."

ECO-Link, an acronym for Energy Conservation for Ohioans, allows homeowners to receive a 3 percent interest rate reduction on qualifying bank loans for five years.

The reduction is taken from the "market rate" of such loans from a list of participating banks, including KeyBank and others across the state.

For additional information about the program, visit ecolink.Ohio.gov.

People can ask to participate when they apply for home equity or installment loans. If approved by the bank, the state will deposit an amount equal to what the consumer is borrowing from the bank, and then donate a portion of the interest it receives for its deposit to offset the interest cost of the consumer, Mr. Boyce explained.

The cost to the state is nominal - about $1,800 for each $200,000 lent, the state treasurer said - especially considering the benefit to the economy in reduced energy usage and the green jobs needed

to install new energy-efficient windows, appliances, or heating and cooling systems.

"We see this program only as a benefit," Mr. Boyce said.

In addition to interest savings, homeowners who make energy efficient improvements can qualify for federal tax credits and additional rebates to help defer the costs of

energy upgrades.

The program is sure to generate some additional income for green-energy companies and those in the struggling building materials industry, such as OC, which makes home insulation, house wraps, and shingles, among other products.

"As more Ohioans complete weatherization projects, obviously that's going to benefit Owens Corning, since that's where a lot of our business is," said John Shea, a company spokesman.

About 25 percent of the company's total revenue comes from sales of its insulation products, and adding more insulation to a home is considered one of the most economical ways of cutting energy usage. The firm's overall revenue in the latest fiscal quarter fell $400 million, or 25 percent.

The average cost of reinsulating a home is between $500 and $1,500, depending on the size of the structure, Mr. Shea said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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