Kentucky aims for lead in energy-efficient homes

Lexington, Ky., on Thursday kicks off a pilot program to make the houses of 100 low-income people energy efficient.

The houses will get insulation and weatherstripping, and some will be outfitted with new furnaces, siding, refrigerators and solar water heaters. Some will have "smart meters" that tell how much energy is being used at any given time.

The $1 million program, called Kentucky Clean Energy Corps, will depend on federal grants and loans, and contributions from corporations, individuals and organizations. Volunteers will do some of the work, but one idea behind the program is to make Kentucky a state where workers are trained in energy efficiency. State officials say the pilot will be the first step toward a statewide effort that could use $100 million from the federal stimulus package to rehabilitate 10,000 homes.

"They're going to be patting us on the back but, more importantly, encouraging other states to follow Kentucky's lead," state Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Jonathan Miller said Wednesday.

Miller said that being held up as an example in green technology is quite a feat for what he described as "an energy-inefficient state, a coal state, a red state." Indeed, Kentucky's per capita energy use is among the highest in the nation.

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