Lake County hopes energy efficiency rebate program becomes a jobs creator.

How can replacing aging air conditioning units help create jobs in Lake County? As it turns out, it could give local installation contractors some new business. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

TAVARES – At first glance, Go Green Get Green sounds like a straightfoward attempt to make local businesses more environmentally friendly – offer a rebate to companies that install more energy-efficient equipment.
But the rebate program could also serve a dual purpose: to boost the local economy and help create jobs. Olivia Polk, project manager for Global-5 Communications, which is handling the marketing for Go Green Get Green, said this is an energy efficiency rebate program for Lake County small commercial business owners and residents.
Anyone who decides to go green by installing energy efficient products can then “get green” – or cash — through the new rebate program funded by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.
“The program is funded through the block grant from the Department of Energy,” Polk said. “It’s a grant provided for Lake County residents and small commercial business owners. They can apply for a rebate and the rebate application is available on the Go Green web site.”
That site can be reached at www.GoGreen.LakecountyFl.gov, and residents can get more information by calling 352-343-9700 or e-mailing GoGreen@LakeCountyFL.gov.
“Within about four weeks, they will receive a check,” Polk said. “All they have to do is provide proof of ownership, or as a renter.”
The reason this could also be considered a jobs program, she said, is because the businesses and residents who decide to install high tech green equipment will need to find someone to do the installation work for them.
“All of the products have to be installed by a state-certified contractor, and they have to be registered in Lake County,” Polk said. “The grant was developed to increase energy-efficiency — and also, really, to create jobs. All of the products have to be purchased in Lake County, and you have to use a Lake County contractor, so hopefully that will add some stimulus to the Lake County economy.”
That’s exactly why the county signed on to the program, said Kelly LaFollette, the county’s information outreach director.
“This is for contractors who have a license to work in Lake County,” she said. “The whole point of the federal grant was jobs creation and retention. Not only does it allow businesses to get reimbursements for going green, but it tries to stimulate the jobs market here in Lake County.”
Promoting green, environmentally-friendly energy is a goal that Lake County commissioners have pursued for a while, LaFollette added.
“The county has had a ‘green team’ established for quite a while, and we’ve had different green events that are focused on this issue,” she said. “But this is the first rebate program we’ve ever had.”
Evidence indicates it should be a successful one, Polk said.
“The Department of Energy has a similar program going on now in Sarasota County,” she said. “We have this funding and it is on a first-come, first-served basis, and once the funding has been distributed, that’s the end of the program. In Sarasota County, this has been going on for seven months, and they have distributed 90 percent of their funds. So we have seen it be effective in other areas in Florida.”
Lake County got $2.8 million from the grant, and more than $825,000 of that money goes directly to the Go Green Get Green rebate. Applications for the program can be downloaded and submitted online.
“All of the products that qualify for the program are available on the Lake County web site,” he said. “Folks can install a heat pump, water heater, even a programmable thermostat. It’s a great way to increase energy in your home. You can install high efficiency indoor lighting and occupancy sensors so you don’t have lights on when there’s no one in the room.”
The application is easy to download, she said, and added, “Residents can apply for all the rebates on one application.”
Helping the business community go green is something other communities are exploring. Jane Patton, president of the Greater Haines City/Northeast Polk County Chamber of Commerce, said it’s a good plan to help direct the local business community to the state and federal rebate programs available for the installation of green equipment.
“We tried to do a green expo a few years ago, but we didn’t get a strong response from businesses,” Patton said. “But I’m sure it’s something we would be interested in trying again. In the long run, it would be good for businesses. What would be good would be to ask our businesses who are already involved in that kind of technology to talk about it, maybe at a luncheon program, so folks can learn more about the state and federal incentives for buisnesses that invest in energy efficient equipment. That’s something we should look into, and see what we can bring together as resources to make our businesses more aware of those opportunities.”
In Poinciana, the Association of Poinciana Villages – the homeowners association for the 10 villages in this community that cuts across Polk and Osceola counties – has also found ways to go green, said its manager, Jeanette Coughenour.
“At the APV, we regularly utilize Mr. Shred, a corporation that either leaves equipment here for shredding paper, or picks it up,” Coughenour said. “And we get credit for that. It’s a way of recycling our paper. And whenever we do any renovation work, we obviously will do energy efficiency when we upgrade our air conditioning. We’re always looking to save enegry. It pays off in the long run.”
Their green efforts also apply to the landscaping work that APV does — and in more ways than one, she added.
“Even our landscaping improvement areas, they are all Florida friendly, which means you would not need to use chemicals on them because they are are lower maintenace,” she said.

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