MORRISVILLE -- The Shumlin administration announced Wednesday a loan program available to homeowners seeking to improve the thermal efficiency of their homes or make the switch to cleaner burning fuels.

The two-year pilot program offers $770,000 for energy efficiency and home heating retrofits for homeowners whose fuel dealers partner with Efficiency Vermont, the state's efficiency utility. The administration expects the funds to leverage $7 million.

"It's all part of our plan to have a cleaner, greener Vermont and grow jobs and economic opportunity while we do it," Gov. Peter Shumlin said at Bourne's Energy Biodiesel Blending Facility in Morrisville.

The press conference was the second stop of his Solar Summer Tour.

The partnership between fuel dealers and the state's efficiency utility was announced last year and is designed to expand dealers' businesses to offer homeowners additional options to cut heating costs by tightening up their homes.

The low-interest loans provide an additional incentive to encourage homeowners to make investments in thermal efficiency and convert to cleaner heating technologies, state officials say.

"We're putting together funding to make loans affordable for Vermonters who have a fuel dealer who is thinking this way and who wants to help them install energy efficiency and renewable technologies," said Darren Springer, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service. "It's going to be a one-stop-shop process."

The loans support weatherization, the installation of more efficient oil furnaces and boiler replacements, cold climate heat pumps and solar hot water heaters, officials said.

"I think it's a unique moment in time where we're looking at a new business model for fuel dealers and we're supporting that from the department's perspective," Springer said.

The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association supports the program. Matt Cota, executive director of the trade association, said more than a dozen members are participating in the partnership, Efficiency Excellence Network.

Companies that provide air-sealing insulation, solar installation and fuel and service will be in a better position to compete in the market, Cota said. "These companies that diversify their services grow their market share," Cota said.

Fuel dealers currently provide home heating oil for half of the Vermont Market.

The Vermont State Employees Credit Union and the Opportunities Credit Union will offer the loans to homeowners whose fuel dealers partner with Efficiency Vermont.

The Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, which is funded through returns on its ownership in the state's transmission utility, is offering $250,000, the administration is offering $282,000, and $240,000 will come from the Clean Energy Development Fund.

VLITE, which was set up as part of Gaz M├ętro's purchase of Central Vermont Public Service Corp. in 2012, invests in energy projects that advance the state's energy goals.

New limits on the amount of sulfur allowed in heating fuels took effect Tuesday. Sulfur, which causes air pollution and scaling in furnaces, is now limited to 500 parts per million and will be reduced to 15 parts per million by 2018.