Umatilla Electric

Ben Lonergan/Hermiston Herald, File

Umatilla Electric Cooperative of Hermiston has received a $3 million federal loan to finance major energy efficiency upgrades.

Umatilla Electric Cooperative received a $3 million federal loan to finance major energy efficiency upgrades that will reduce energy waste and cut costs for residents of Umatilla County.

Steve Meyers, Member Services Administrator for Umatilla Electric, said the loan will further the co-op’s existing energy efficiency program.

“In 2018, we received a $1.5 million no-interest loan to begin our Energy Saver Loan program, in which we offer 1.99% loans for residential heat pumps, windows and insulation,” Meyers said.

Well received by Umatilla Electric members and installation contractors, Meyers said the co-op has made 60 loans since January 2019.

Meyers said the program’s intention is that the monthly energy savings from these improvements will help offset all or part of the homeowner’s loan. The $3 million the co-op just received from the federal government will pay for the development of a manufactured home replacement program.

“Through this year, UEC has been working with state and community action agencies as guidance is developed for manufactured home replacement legislation signed by the governor in January 2020,” Meyers said.

To the extent possible, as a community service, Meyer said the co-op wants to combine its no-interest loan with related programs and incentives offered by state and federal agencies and Bonneville Power Administration.

Meyer said Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and the USDA were helpful in making changes to the Rural Energy Savings Program to make it more expansive and useful for communities, and this loan approval is a good example of that.

The Umatilla Electric’s general manager and CEO, Robert Echenrode, expressed his gratitude for what he called the hard work and dedication of Oregon’s senators to help co-op members with their energy needs.

“We have experience with the RESP program and this additional federal loan bolsters what we can offer to our members for energy efficiency,” Echenrode said.

The 20-year loan, administered through the USDA’s Rural Energy Savings Program, was designed to allow rural electric co-ops to offer their customers low-interest loans to provide affordable financing for energy efficiency improvements. Customers then pay back the loans through the savings on their electric bills.

“Throughout this year, the coronavirus crisis has claimed Oregonians’ lives and livelihoods — upending every aspect of our lives,” said Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the USDA, in a statement. “Now is the time to do all that we can to build a road to recovery, and that road must include the state-of-the-art infrastructure investments our rural communities need to access essential utilities, cut costs, and thrive.”

Wyden was also a supporter of the program, stating in a news release that, “Smart investments like this loan for the Umatilla Electric Cooperative to help low-income customers make their homes more affordable to heat this winter are a must for rural Oregonians to weather this economic storm, and I’ll keep battling for communities throughout our state to secure resources like this so they too can be helped in their recovery.”

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