NLR's L'Oreal Plant and Employees First in Energy Program

L'Oréal USA in North Little Rock and 100 of its employees will be the first to participate in a federally funded energy efficiency pilot program, Gov. Mike Beebe's office announced Monday.

Under the Home Energy Loan Program (HEAL), the company will receive a zero-interest loan to make industrial improvements that cut energy use - lighting retrofits, in the case of L'Oréal's plant - and to offer a revolving loan fund to help employees make similar improvements in their homes.

The first hundred L'Oréal employees to ask for them will receive free home energy audits from an AmeriCorps service member. L'Oréal will then provide interest-free home-improvement loans its employees will pay back through payroll deductions.

The Clinton Climate Initiative, a multinational climate policy organ of the William J. Clinton Foundation, is developing and administering the program on behalf of the Arkansas Energy Office, itself a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The AEDC receives the funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, which provides them through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Arkansas is the laboratory for what program administrator Martha Jane Murray hopes will be a "scalable and replicable" program that can be repeated across the nation and around the world. "We're creating a template that will be shared broadly," she said.

The Climate Initiative is seeking three more companies to participate, from Arkansas' 1st, 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts, with the goal of earmarking $2 million in loans during the next two years.

"There is no downside," she said. "It's a winning proposition all the way around, but it's new, so there are some unknowns."

Companies with at least 150 employees, at least 50 of whom the census defines as low- or moderate-income, may write to mjmurray@clintonfoundation.org for details on eligibility and applying.