Bradenton energy assist program aims to lower energy bills

nwilliams@bradenton.comDecember 23, 2012 

MANATEE -- A new program initiated by the city of Bradenton may save Manatee residents hundreds in energy bills.

Manatee Energy Assist will launch in January and is designed to provide residents with energy expertise while stimulating job creation for local home improvement businesses.

The program, which has been in the development stages for the past six months, was created through a partnership with the city of Bradenton, Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency, Florida Power and Light and Suncoast Community Capital, with energy loans provided by Manatee Community Federal Credit Union.

Manatee Energy Assist aims to provide funding for homeowners lacking the equity to upgrade. Once enrolled in the program, users will receive a low-interest loan based on their credit score. Loans can be for as low as $300 and as much as $15,000, depending on the upgrade.

Applicants must be a homeowner and occupy the residence, whether it be a studio-sized condo or a four-bedroom house. A minimum credit score of 620 is required.

"We as a community have to pay more for our energy consumption," said Sherod Halliburton, executive vice president of Manatee Community Federal Credit Union.

The two-sided benefit of

the program, Halliburton said, is local businesses will see an influx in demand.

"If we have residents in this community who choose to retrofit there homes, local businesses will do the work," he said.

Home improvement businesses must become certified by FPL to take part in the program. Suncoast Community Capital, a personalized economic development organization funded by the CCRA, will assist local business in the certification process.

"The partnership with FPL is paramount in making this program work, and I applaud the efforts of Manatee Community Federal Credit Union on launching this needed program," said Tim Polk, executive director of the Central Community Redevelopment Agency.

Through the partnership with FPL, those interested will be introduced to the utility company's OnCall Saving Program, which includes surveys to analyze the participant's account and usage information to determine peak periods of demand. The program also offers tips on how to lower energy bills.

"The program we have for customers saves energy," said Heather Kirkendall, FPL spokeswoman. "We've helped defer the need to build 13 medium-sized power plants."

FPL serves approximately 4.6 million customer accounts in 35 Florida counties, including Manatee, and is one of the largest rate-regulated electric utilities in the country. Kirkendall said nearly 800,000 FPL customers have enrolled in the OnCall program.

"It's a better way to reach customers and get the word out," Kirkendall said of the partnership with Bradenton. "We want customers to save money and save energy."

Halliburton said the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council will observe Manatee Energy Assist as a pilot program for potential use in surrounding counties.

"This can be a winner for this community," Halliburton said.

Those interested can call 941-748-7704.

Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.

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