Program on energy efficiency launched in Dorchester

Bostonians will have more options this winter to make their homes as energy efficient as possible through to a new city program launched last week in Dorchester’s Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood.

Mayor Thomas Menino announced the Renew Boston Residential Program program on Thursday by showcasing the Potosi St. home of Saithlyn Jones, who cut her heating bill in half by taking advantage of the new program.

The $11.9 million program is set to aid eligible residents across the city in taking advantage of energy- and cost-saving improvements for their homes. Working with partner non-profits, utility companies and other organizations, the program looks to install energy-saving improvements like additional insulation, door and window sealing and other upgrades to Boston homes.

“I was having such a difficult time with my utility bills,” Jones said, whose income did not qualify her for any subsidy or assistance with the bills.

Renew Boston is funded in part by $1.8 from the federal stimulus’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.

“This is another milestone in our energy agenda,” Menino said from Jones’ front walk.

Menino said the effort will encourage energy efficiency across neighborhoods and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as employing locals in “green jobs.”

Other key contributors the program are utility companies NSTAR and National Grid. Massachusetts passed the Green Communities Act in 2008, which requires utility companies to provide energy efficient upgrades to consumers and to promote cleaner energy use.

After receiving a series of expensive gas heating bills, Jones worked with the Next Step Living program, a partner of the city’s new initiative, to conduct a free audit of her Potosi St. home to determine where improvements could be made. Workers from the programs found that heat was escaping from Jones’ roof due to a lack of insulation in the attic.

Jones said that she had been paying between $4,000 and $5,000 each winter in heating costs for year approximately 80 year old home, located just behind St. Peter’s Church.

Jones said that after the insulation was installed, her gas bill was cut by 30 percent. Though she won’t experience the improvements firsthand until this coming Winter, Jones reported that the insulation has already helped keep the house cool this Summer.

The program “will result in over $11.9 million in energy work,” and will “save Boston residents $3.4 million per year in energy costs,” as well as creating 58 local jobs, according to the release.

“This is where America is going,” Menino said at the announcement, “clean energy, energy efficiency, carbon footprint being reduced.” After taking this program to every Boston neighborhood, the Mayor hopes more Bostonians will support green energy.

“We need to educate folks that don’t know what this is all about,” Menino said.

National Grid executive Ed White thanked Jones for being a leader in refitting her home. Jim Hunt, the city’s environmental chief, said that among the gas company’s green initiatives will be the installation of solar panels on National Grid’s iconic gas tanks, generating over one megawatt of renewable power.