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Hogansville partners with Groundswell to launch SOUL Program in area

The Hogansville City Council heard from Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore Monday on how the city could benefit from the Save On Utilities Long term (SOUL) program. 

Consequently, after hearing from Moore, the city approved a partnership with the organization. 

The SOUL program focuses on energy efficiency upgrades for low to moderate-income residents with at least 20% higher than average energy usage. 

“Groundswell is a registered 501c3 nonprofit,” Moore said. “We work with local communities on energy efficiency and clean energy programs. We are really focused on saving people money, improving affordability and quality of life.” 

Moore said that overall in the six different states Groundswell works in, they are serving more than about 3,800 primarily lower income households with an average annual savings of more than $500 per household, per year.

“The program prioritizes serving lower and moderate income households with energy efficiency, affordability and savings,” Moore said. “Lower income households typically have the highest utility bills. That’s not only because household income may be lower, but it is because typically lower income families are living in less efficient housing.” 

It is costing more for lower income families to keep heat on, water running and the home comfortable which Groundswell calls, “energy burden.”

Moore said that they begin working by performing initial assessments on homes.

“We then work with our partners and do a very in-depth home energy assessment,” Moore said. 

Homes receive a duct blaster and blower door test to determine what energy efficiency improvements would best serve the resident. Groundswell then makes an outlined plan on how each individual home can save money with SOUL. 

“Once the residents approve the plan that we develop, the energy efficiency improvements are installed, and then the resident sees an immediate reduction on their utility bill,” Moore said. “Every single resident also gets what we call an initial direct install. That’s LED light bulbs, hot water heater blankets and other small things.” 

Local contractors identified through SOUL receive complimentary training as well. 

For Hogansville, Groundswell will create a data analysis to study the local utility bills, housing and economic data. They will then plan to optimize SOUL specifically for what fits Hogansville residents best. 

After studying the area, SOUL will then create and deliver the plan to Hogansville for review, discussion and refinement. 

Moore said the last step is to approve the plan and move forward with implementing the plan. 

She noted that they will also need to look over all data to see what any funding the city would need to provide for the program. 

If the SOUL plan and program is approved, Groundswell will seek a USDA Rural Energy Savings Program support to implement the program. This would result in no out of pocket costs to the city. 

Moore added that SOUL will leverage local community organizations to support residents in need with other wraparound services, such as food and clothing.