"I never thought I'd be so happy to see insulation oozing from the crevices of a house," said Mayor Sam Adams on Monday, August 24, admiring Maura and Kevin Coté's home near Reed College on SE 54th.

The Cotés were the first couple to take advantage of Adams' new Clean Energy Works program, which provides loans to homeowners to weatherize and insulate their homes for energy efficiency. The cost of the insulation—in the Cotés' case, about $5,000—will be paid off over the next 20 years at a rate of just 7 percent over the term, as a supplement to the home's heating bill with NW Natural. If the Cotés sell their home, the loan cost is passed on to the next buyer.

"The bill is only going up by the amount we're expecting to save," said Kevin, a clean energy enthusiast who helps commercial enterprises improve their energy efficiency for a living. "We wouldn't have been able to afford the insulation without the loan program."

The program is starting with a pilot of 500 homes, and anyone who owns a home in Portland can qualify. Maybe you don't own a fixer-upper near the liberal arts college, but even if you're renting you can still tell your landlord to visit cleanenergyworksportland.org to apply.

Up to 100,000 homes in Multnomah County could benefit from the program over the long term, says Derek Smith from the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The pilot has been funded with $2.5 million in federal stimulus money, but Smith says he is hoping to apply for millions more in stimulus dollars over the coming months, and that he is optimistic about securing more funding from private investors.

"We'll get there," he says. "We've just got to prove to people that this is a viable investment."

The program is unique in the nation for having gained the cooperation of private power and gas companies, not to mention the enterprise arm of ShoreBank to supply the loans. Poor management fails good ideas too often in the so-called "city that works," and I'm refreshed to see this program hitting the street. Adams was clearly enjoying being able to give some positive news to the assembled TV cameras this week, too. He was even game when I suggested he get up on the roof with the hose, to pump some insulation in.

"But they won't let me," he said, after a conversation with the contractors. "Liability, insurance, blah blah blah. Evidently I just don't have what it takes."