Bourbon County

Pilot energy program kicked off in Lexington home

She put plastic over the windows of her North Lexington home, hung blankets over doors where the cold air slipped in, even replaced regular light bulbs with the new compact fluorescent ones.

When Leona Pena's utility bills were still too high, a neighbor suggested she call the Community Action Council.

"So I did, and all this happened," Pena said Thursday.

"All this" was 100 people in her front yard. It was the mayor and the governor dropping by. More important, it was insulation, new windows and doors, a new refrigerator and furnace, and a device that "talks" to her electric meter to tell her how much energy she's using.

The modest home that Pena and her son Kevin have owned since 1996 was chosen for the kickoff of a $1 million pilot program to make 100 Central Kentucky homes more energy efficient.

The money comes from existing federal grant and loan programs, corporations, individuals and organizations.

Officials hope the program, called Kentucky Clean Energy Corps, will be able to use $100 million in federal stimulus money to rehabilitate 10,000 homes.

The idea, Gov. Steve Beshear said, is to reduce energy costs in a state that has a reputation as an energy waster, and to increase employment by training people to do energy audits and rehabilitation work. After visiting Pena's house Thursday, Beshear took part in the launch of a national effort to retrofit millions of homes.

The first 100 Kentucky homes — 70 in Lexington and the rest in Clark and Bourbon counties — are all owned by the people living in them.

The program could be expanded to include rental units; officials are studying ways to do that while making sure that tenants don't get booted from the improved houses.

Low- and middle-income people who want to get on a list for future energy upgrades should call the Community Action Council at (800) 244-2275. Companies that want to donate time and materials or do contract work for the program should call (502) 564-8642. For more information, go to