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Saving energy at home could get easier with new grant program
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/22/2010 12:02 AM

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A $25 million federal grant for the Chicago region aims to help homeowners and businesses save both energy and cash.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning along with the cities of Chicago and Rockford have won a "Retrofit Ramp-Up" award, part of the economic stimulus program.

"The bottom line is we want people to use less energy," CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn said. The awards were announced today to coincide with Earth Day.

A Web site will be created to help people find registered contractors and financial institutions offering low- or zero-interest loans. "We want to set up a system that makes it easy for people to get information and easy to get financing," Blankenhorn said.

The lion's share of the grant will be used to work with banks to help guarantee and provide for subsidized or long-term loans. A portion of the funding will be used for the Web site and a marketing campaign.

Retrofits can range from window replacement to more efficient heating and cooling systems to better insulation. It's estimated retrofitting can cut utility use by up to 40 percent per home. The grant program also aims to create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Twenty-five communities across the nation won a total of $452 million in grants. "All the suburban counties signed on to this so it's truly a regional product," Blankenhorn said. "I think the city, suburban and exurban collaboration is what made us stand out."

Organizers hope to have the program operating before the end of the year.