Meeting in Atwater focuses on electric bills

As temperatures continue rising this summer, so do the electric bills of city residents.

A town hall meeting today will introduce residents to a voluntary financing program for homeowners wanting to make energy-efficient upgrades, as well as other programs to conserve energy this summer.

Attendees will learn about the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity program, approved by the Atwater City Council late last year. The California program allows eligible homeowners to apply for financing to make improvements to air conditioning, roofing, windows, water savings products and solar upgrades.

The program pays for the cost of equipment, labor and any applicable permits – adding those payments to the property’s tax bill. Homeowners pay off the project costs when they make property tax payments.

There are no down payments, and interest rates are tax-deductible, according to Eric Rosenthal, chief marketing officer for the HERO program. Homeowners have until the end of the life of the product to pay it off.

Atwater is the only city in Merced County participating in the HERO program, but county supervisors recently approved it for unincorporated communities. A handful of cities in Stanislaus County, including Turlock and Modesto, have also signed on to the voluntary program.

Rosenthal said his organization has saved homeowners more than $7 million a year in reduced utility bills.

In addition to the HERO Program, Atwater Mayor Joan Faul said residents will hear from the Merced Irrigation District and PG&E officials about how to use less energy.

“There is going to be a number of different people coming in and talking about how to conserve energy during the summer,” Faul said. “We want to explain to people what the HERO program is, plus the other programs they can be involved with.”

Faul said she’s hoping for a good turnout for today’s meeting. The mayor said attendance for a neighborhood watch town hall meeting last week was “disappointing.”

“We’re hoping we can get more people,” she said. “It’s just getting more information to the public so they know what’s going on in our community.”

The town hall meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. today at the Atwater Community Center, 760 E. Bellevue Road.