People left hanging by Efficiency Kansas program may get loans

TOPEKA — About 150 people who were left hanging this summer after the state redirected federal stimulus money from a home energy efficiency program to other projects may get loans for home projects after all. But the bulk of money initially intended for home efficiency projects will go to energy companies for three bio-methane projects.

The Kansas Corporation Commission and Department of Commerce told the Joint Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy Tuesday that they have requested that the Department of Energy let them spend $1.5 million to complete the energy efficiency projects that auditors identified for them.

If approved, the state will notify auditors and make sure customers still want to complete their energy efficiency projects before ensuring lenders and utility companies make quick payments so people can get their projects completed.

Efficiency Kansas offered low-interest loans through partnering banks and utilities for work auditors identified as energy-saving projects. Only 13 people took out loans within the first six months because of complicated nature of the program and banks requiring second mortgages, all at a time of financial uncertainty.  By the end of 2010, the KCC reported the program had resulted in 137 loans for about $935,000.

Part of the problem was that the KCC used all 240 days it was allowed to complete the regulatory process needed to add Westar Energy to the program, leaving the state’s largest utility out of the program until less than a year was left.

“It was clear that spending the remainder of the $38 million was not guaranteed,” the KCC said in written testimony to the committee.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration directed the KCC to shift the money toward the three renewable-energy programs in hopes of not sending the money back.