A little more than a month after the city of Maryville introduced the possibility of joining TVA’s Home Uplift program to help fit local homes for energy savings, Alcoa announced it is also looking into the initiative.
Alcoa officials discussed Uplift in a recent meeting where City Manager Mark Johnson gave an overview of the program and explained how city officials already were exploring financial options.
Uplift is an offshoot of TVA’s EnergyRight, a program designed to help customers retrofit their homes with upgraded energy-saving features including HVAC systems, insulation and windows.
In some cases, home and business owners participating in EnergyRight even get rebates for making the energy-efficient upgrades.
Uplift turns an eye to low-income households and provides funds in collaboration with local utility providers to retrofit a selection of homes in which families might not have enough personal funds to upgrade on their own.
“So how would a person even go about applying for this?” Commissioner Tanya Martin asked during the meeting.
“When we adopt the program, it will be available downstairs,” Johnson replied, referring to a public area in the city’s municipal building where people can pick up forms to apply for the program. He said there may also be sign-up forms and more information on Alcoa’s website and on electric bills.
From those sources, Alcoa residents would be able to opt to have their homes worked on by Uplift contractors.
“It’s ranked on priority ... when they do an evaluation,” Electric Director Ryan Trentham said, explaining how TVA will tackle energy issues in individual houses. If the HVAC system is worse off than the insulation, for instance, the HVAC may get priority.
Depending on who signs up, officials indicated homes would be given an Uplift upgrade on a first-come, first-served basis.
But how does it get funded?
Uplift program information shows that TVA looks for a matching grant with local utility providers to fund the program. This would be based on revenues each provider nets annually.
The TVA match available for Alcoa would be $45,216, according to Johnson’s presentation, giving the local program $90,400 to work with, between grant money and either electric department revenue and/or the city’s Share the Warmth program — which allows customers to fork over additional money on their utility bills to help those in need.
“If we’re able to raise that participation in Share the Warmth,” Johnson said, “some of those extra funds may go into (the Uplift matching grant).”
Alcoa Finance Director Susan Gennoe noted that Share the Warmth is an “opt-in” program, and customers do have to sign up for it. Johnson indicated the city may have to do a better job advertising it if it wants to use those funds to put toward Uplift.
Breaking grant and matching amounts down further, Johnson said the city would potentially commit to doing 10 houses in the program’s first year, giving around $8,000 to $10,000 for each home.
Uplift already has seen a wide range of implementation across Tennessee after it emerged from its pilot program in 2018.
“During successful pilots in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Huntsville and West Kentucky RECC service areas over the last year, Home Uplift reached over 1,400 families,” TVA spokesman Scott Brooks emailed The Daily Times.
“Participants reduced their energy costs by an average of 25% and initial studies from a third-party research firm shows participants have improved health and life outcomes,” he added.
Brooks confirmed the program is being offered to every local electric provider in the valley.
Alcoa is not locked into an Uplift deal yet, but Johnson said the city may be ready to put it on the table for a vote by city commissioners meeting Dec. 10.