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The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is providing $5 million in loan financing for entities to make investments that reduce their energy use. The department's Energy Loan Program is accepting applications until Sept. 30, and more information for applicants is on the program's website.

Public schools, public higher education institutions, not-for-profit hospitals and local governments are eligible to apply for the loan financing. The money can be used for a variety of energy- saving investments, such as high-efficiency lighting fixtures and insulation improvements.

The investments reduce costs for the loan recipients through energy savings. Loan recipients are usually able to repay the loan using solely the money saved from cost improvements.

Daniel Dahler, the Energy Loan Program and Energy Assurance supervisor, said the timing of the return on investment varies. He said loans that finance replacing older fluorescent lights with LED lights can take two to four years to pay back, but then, the cost savings and return on investment is evident.

Another benefit is the loans are not defined as debt, so they don't hurt the entities' debt limit. Dahler said this allows entities to make other necessary improvements, such as repaving parking lots or paying teachers higher salaries.

The Energy Loan Program has provided loans to entities in almost every county in the state, and Dahler said the goal is to continue to reduce energy use and cost in Missouri.

The department announced the application period in a news release Tuesday. "A part of the state's effort to support and strengthen local communities, the Department of Natural Resources is pleased to offer an Energy Loan Program cycle to help eligible applicants make cost-saving energy improvements," stated Carol Comer, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "The program can improve communities' resilience, save taxpayer money and support jobs in Missouri."

More than $118 million has been awarded from the Energy Loan Program since it began in 1989, and there have been no loan defaults in the program's history. These loans have resulted in more than $214 million in estimated energy savings. Dahler said the program has grown since its inception because the loan interest goes back in to grow the fund.

"It shows that we're being good stewards of the state's money and trying to directly affect the constituents that we serve," Dahler said.

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