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A South Carolina weatherization program that has made area homes more energy efficient could have a significant affect in the local economy for decades to come. The Orangeburg-Calhoun-Allendale-Bamberg (OCAB) Community Action Agency program has been financed by federal stimulus money and has improved 179 houses for low- to moderate-income homeowners over the past year.

The work has slashed energy bills and made older homes more energy efficient. OCAB Community Action Agency Executive Director Calvin Wright says 12 "green" jobs have been created in addition to the $1 million impact on the local economy since the program started.

"Entrepreneurship will come out of this on the green jobs," Wright said. "Those who have picked up these skills are looking at striking out on their own in the future to provide these kinds of services. All things have worked well for everyone involved."

On February 3, the White House Recovery.gov website said the federal weatherization program was responsible for 15,427 jobs nationwide. It was ranked as the seventh-most efficient stimulus grant program in terms of job creation during the last quarter of 2010.

OCAB Weatherization Director Linton Davis said crew members' weatherization training has come through federal Department of Energy certified instruction, most of which takes place at technical colleges.

Weatherization training is key to entering the energy efficiency industry. Attending an on-site weatherization training institute will give people the skills to qualify to perform this type of work and get hired. By receiving a weatherization certification, one could enter the many careers paths of the industry. Weatherization training programs exist for those wanting to become energy auditors or air leakage control installers.

"Those working now are learning how to use this equipment," Davis said. "That can translate into future jobs. There is a tremendous amount of interest out there to do this kind of work. This is a marketable skill we possess. The electric utilities are looking at the possibility of offering these services and people will have to get the services performed and pay them back."

When Davis mentioned there being a tremendous amount of interest in this kind of work, he was referring to the different career paths one could take in the weatherization industry. One could take weatherization certification courses to become an air leakage control installer or an energy auditor. The benefits of both occupations are fulfilling to the workers as well as the homeowners. Workers will see the outcome of their work and realize they are helping homeowners save energy and money.

Last year, the S.C. legislature allowed the state's utilities to offer fixed, low-interest loans for up to 10 years for energy-efficient updates. Such improvements could include everything from new heating and cooling units to better insulation and more efficient appliances.

The weatherization crews educate customers about regular air filter replacement and programmable thermostats. OCAB Weatherization Assessor Ivan Evans also encourages the use of carbon monoxide detectors.

The federal weatherization program is demonstrating the success of the program by simultaneously helping homeowners save money and energy, while helping those who are unemployed find jobs.

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