07.01.09

Whitehouse Visits Local Solar-Powered Home, Announces New Legislation Promoting Home Energy Efficiency

Charlestown, RI - As the summer heats up and electricity costs begin to rise, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today visited a work site where a local company is installing a residential solar electric system for a local family, and during this visit announced new legislation encouraging families and property owners to improve their homes' energy efficiency. The Energy Efficiency in Housing Act of 2009 (S. 1379) would help consumers save money on home energy costs, create jobs for local contractors, and limit pollution that contributes to global warming.

Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, toured the installation site where Alteris Renewables, a local company with offices in Bristol, is installing the system at the home of Daniel and Jocelyn Rzewuski of Charlestown. The Rzewuskis and the crew of Alteris Renewables talked with Whitehouse about the benefits of solar electric systems.

"It's great to see the potential of clean, renewable energy being harnessed right here in our Ocean State," said Whitehouse. "As we work toward stabilizing our economy and reducing our reliance on foreign energy sources, this type of work will become increasingly important. I've introduced the Energy Efficiency in Housing Act to help save consumers money on their energy bills and jump-start the market for renewable energy in Rhode Island and throughout the country."

Whitehouse's legislation would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop mortgage incentives for homebuyers - such as waived fees, higher permitted loan principal, and lower interest rates - to finance purchases of energy efficient homes and home improvements. The bill would also create a new market for leased renewable energy systems by encouraging third party investors to purchase renewable energy systems - such as solar electric systems - and lease them to homeowners, eliminating upfront costs and allowing homeowners to share in the energy savings.

"Especially in these economic times, leasing models for solar energy are highly attractive to homeowners and businesses," said Ron French, President of the Solar Business unit of Alteris Renewables. "In particular, we've had great success in Connecticut and Massachusetts with solar leasing programs for homeowners. Based on Alteris's experience, federal support for leasing models has the potential to grow the residential solar market significantly."

The Rzewuskis recently had a geothermal system installed by Newport Geothermal to provide their home with hot water. The family's new solar electric system is expected to provide 56 percent of the electricity needs for their home. The system will also be able to feed any unused electricity back into the electric grid, for which the family will receive a credit. As a result, the Rzewuskis should see significantly lower electric bills while they reduce their environmental impact.

"I decided I didn't want to get raked through the coals anymore by the utility companies. One thing - a little skirmish in the Middle East, another hurricane, speculation - can send prices soaring," said Daniel Rzewuski. "The system is all mine, and I've made a good investment in something that has tangible productive value, especially given where the U.S. dollar and economy are potentially headed."

"Many Rhode Islanders have been waiting for meaningful incentives like these to improve existing buildings, considered the low hanging fruit in terms of energy efficiency spending," said Connie McGreavy, Chair of the RI Green Building Council. "The chapter has received inquiries from local banking and insurance companies looking to expand product offerings in response to anticipated demand. This legislation can accelerate the transformation that is needed in the residential sector."

Alteris Renewables is a full service renewable energy systems integrator and project developer. With more than 2250 completed installations throughout the Northeast over the past 30 years, Alteris provides PV (photovoltaic, solar electric), solar thermal, and wind energy solutions for commercial, residential, education, municipal and institutional clients. The company has thirteen offices in New England and New York.

Newport Geothermal, based in Newport, RI, installs geo-thermal heating and cooling systems in homes and businesses throughout the area. Their systems can often cut hot water bills and heating bills in half, and help decrease consumers' reliance on fossil fuels.

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