ACEEE report: Energy efficiency helps rural ratepayers

It is no secret that rural communities continue to struggle, even in the strong economy, or that they frequently get overlooked when assistance programs are being planned.

According to a recent report You are leaving WAPA.gov. by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, rural residents spend an average of 4.4 percent of their income on energy bills—energy burden—compared to the 3.3 percent national average. Low-income households, including the elderly, renters and residents of manufactured and multifamily housing, have an energy burden nearly three times that of higher income households.

The High Cost of Energy in Rural America: Household Energy Burdens and Opportunities for Energy Efficiency focuses on energy costs related to the physical housing structure.

The report concludes with program options to address energy affordability, and details challenges and opportunities related to serving rural households with energy efficiency.

Life-changing programs
Factors that contribute to energy burden include the physical condition of a home, a household’s ability to invest in energy-efficiency improvements and the availability of efficiency programs and incentives that put energy-saving technologies within reach. Energy-efficiency and home weatherization programs can greatly reduce this burden and make energy bills affordable. Rural utilities can help by offering these types of programs and partnering with local and regional organizations to increase their reach.

Aiken Electric Cooperative’s Help My House on-bill program, highlighted in the ACEEE video “Rural Energy Burden,” You are leaving WAPA.gov. demonstrates how utility programs can make a difference in low-income customers’ lives. Participants have been able to slash their electricity bills nearly in half by getting their homes weatherized through Aiken’s program. That is money homeowners can now use to pay for day-to-day necessities.

Learn more
A second report will be released by ACEEE this fall exploring lessons learned from rural program leaders across the country. In October, ACEEE is holding its first Rural Energy Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine how energy-efficiency technologies and programs can help rural America revitalize its economy. Industry, utility, cooperative, nonprofit, academia and government representatives will be discussing how to improve and expand efficiency programs that serve rural communities.

You can download this and other reports from ACEEE’s website for free.

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 8/23/18

ACEEE video series links energy efficiency, public health

Oh, energy efficiency! Is there anything you can’t do? As if saving consumers money and managing our loads isn’t enough, a video series by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ACEEE) makes the argument that more efficient buildings play a role in keeping us healthy.

An efficient home is a comfortable home
An efficient home is a comfortable home. (Photo by DOE Weatherization Program)

Utilities across the nation are greening their portfolios by adding more renewables and distributed generators as the technologies become more affordable. However, just as the kilowatt-hour you don’t use is the cheapest, it is also the cleanest. The ACEEE series highlights a benefit of energy efficiency that often gets little attention, especially on the personal scale.

Each video presents a case study on how weatherization has helped to improve the health of homeowners and their families. The series launched in December 2017 with a video about a senior citizen living in a trailer in rural West Virginia. After a local anti-poverty program weatherized her home, the woman’s chronic breathing problems eased and her utility bills decreased.

Part two, released this month, shows how better insulation and air sealing have improved a child’s asthma condition in Baltimore. The series will conclude in February with a look at how weatherization is mitigating the effects of outdoor pollution in Pittsburgh. All videos will be available on ACEEE’s website.

In March, ACEEE will release The Next Nexus: Exemplary Programs That Save Energy and Improve Health, a report detailing programs nationwide that work to improve public health by improving building health. These programs represent potential partners for utilities and municipalities seeking to promote weatherization and other building efficiency initiatives. The report also highlights the non-energy benefits of weatherization—such as improved comfort and indoor air quality—helping utility program managers build a stronger case for efficiency upgrades.

If the report whets your appetite to learn more about the intersection of energy efficiency and public health, ACEEE is hosting its first Conference on Health, Environment and Energy in New Orleans in December. The event will offer many opportunities to network and brainstorm with other professionals in these fields. It is time to share the news that reducing energy waste is not only good for your bottom line, it is good for your community.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 1/8/18

Electro-Tech Expo showcases efficient technology

For the 16th year, a Western customer and an investor-owned utility are teaming up to expose energy professionals in the Upper Great Plains region to cutting-edge equipment and systems and the latest in best construction practices.

US Chamber of Commerce Senior Policy Director Heath Knakmuhs spoke at the 15th annual Electro-Technology Expo last year. The event attracts policy makers as well as experts from across the electronics, construction and utility industries.
US Chamber of Commerce Senior Policy Director Heath Knakmuhs spoke at the 15th annual Electro-Technology Expo last year. The event attracts policy makers as well as experts from across the electronics, construction and utility industries. (Photo by Black Hills Power)

The 2016 Electro-Technology Expo  You are leaving Western's site. will take place, Jan. 21, 2016, at the Ramkota Best Western Inn and Convention Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. West River Electric Association You are leaving Western's site. of Wall, South Dakota, and Black Hills Power You are leaving Western's site. of Rapid City co-sponsor this popular event. Western also supports the Expo as a co-sponsor. UGP Energy Services Representative Georganne Myers said, “It’s a great place for our customers to network and learn so much in one day, and the price is affordable.” Admission to Electro-Technology Expo is $30, which includes qualifying code hours and continuing education credits.

Something for everybody
In fact, the Electro-Technology Expo is designed specifically to bring professionals together. This year’s Keynote Speaker is Mike Eggl, senior vice president of Communications and Administration for Basin Electric Power Cooperative You are leaving Western's site.. Vendors display state-of-the-art, energy-efficiency technology on the exhibit floor where utility program managers and contractors can inspect the equipment and get answers to their questions. Industry experts conduct workshops on topics of concern to power providers, facility managers and building industry professionals.

This year’s sessions include:

  • LED street and area lighting case studies – several sessions plus vendor booths
  • Demand management systems
  • Geothermal systems
  • Energy-efficient lighting technology
  • Home weatherization
  • Sustainability incentives
  • Electrical code classes (three sessions)
  • Motors and drives
  • Heat pump system troubleshooting
  • Hydronic in-floor heating systems
  • Changes in water heater regulations
  • Utility energy-efficiency program overview

Organizers distribute surveys at the end of the event to ask attendees for suggestions on future topics. “We start working on the next Expo the day after,” said Black Hills Power Energy Services Engineer Don Martinez.

Going strong
The value of the Expo shows in its enduring popularity. Attendance has grown over the years to more than 300 in 2015. Part of the growth has to do with an explosion of energy-related technologies. “Each year, attendees can count on seeing something new,” Martinez observed. “So much is happening in the industry, it can be hard to keep up. The Expo is a one-day crash course.”

The speaker roster is drawn mainly from vendors and suppliers, who have the opportunity to reach out to potential customers. Design and construction professionals; facility energy managers; building system specialists and real estate sales representatives, appraisers and inspectors can network with one another. Utility professionals get to meet with attendees from industries that have a profound effect on energy use.

The Expo planning committee has also built relationships with the local trade schools and school of mines. “It’s a chance to familiarize students with different aspects of the energy industry and let them know what kind of careers are out there for them,” Martinez explained. “The Expo is not a job fair, but connections happen,” he added.

Spreading efficiency
Putting on an event like the Expo is a lot of work that many utilities would consider beyond their scope. For Black Hills and West River, however, the Expo is a way to educate customers about equipment and practices that can reduce utility bills and operating costs. Getting trade allies excited about more efficient products to offer their customers has an upstream effect, as well, driving eventual market transformation.

The benefits of creating a forum for sharing information about energy-efficiency technologies and practices are significant enough to get a public power utility and an investor-owned utility to work together. “It is not often you see a joint effort between a public power utility and an IOU,” acknowledged Martinez. “But customer education is an important part of every power provider’s mission.”

For more information about the 2016 Electro-Technology Expo, on either attending or exhibiting, contact Jamie Hill at 605-721-2276.

ENERGY STAR launches ‘Change the World’ tour

EnergyStarLogoEnvironmental Protection Agency Celebrates ENERGY STAR Day, Highlights Youth Leaders Protecting the Climate

To raise awareness about the value of energy efficiency to our communities, the ENERGY STAR program is taking its show on the road during the month of October.

The Change the World tour started in Pinconning, Michigan, Oct. 2, when ENERGY STAR partner Community Energy hosted an efficiency makeover of the town’s Boys & Girls Club. Tour events in Western’s territory include building energy-efficient homes in San Francisco, educating low-income customers about saving energy in Colorado and planting trees in Southern California. The tour ends in Arizona on Oct. 28, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an extensive energy-efficiency upgrade on a nonprofit housing facility for homeless veterans in Phoenix.

Get on the bandwagon
Check the tour schedule to get ideas about ways your utility could partner with ENERGY STAR to improve your community. In the meantime, you can turn every month into Energy Awareness Month with materials from ENERGY STAR. Let schools in your territory know they can download door hangers and display signs to spread the word about energy efficiency all year round. ENERGY STAR suggests other activities to turn kids into efficiency allies:

  • Take the ENERGY STAR pledge and commit to taking actions such as adjusting thermostats, adding insulation and using ENERGY STAR-certified lighting.
  • Attend local events such as energy efficiency fairs and energy-saving demonstrations and workshops. Current local events can be found on the ENERGY STAR’s Across America map.
  • Share energy-saving stories online, and inspire others to take action.
  • Sign kids up to join Team ENERGY STAR, where they will learn smart energy use with easy-to-download games, tips and tools and activities.

And don’t forget to share your plans and events with Energy Services so we can brag about your accomplishments in the Energy Services Bulletin.

Help for utilities, consumers
For more than 20 years, the ENERGY STAR program has provided utilities with reliable resources for managing loads and building lasting customer relationships. Americans have saved nearly $230 billion on utility bills, preventing more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, the ENERGY STAR label can be found on more than 65 different kinds of products, as well as new homes and buildings. Products that have earned the ENERGY STAR designation prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the government. For more information about ENERGY STAR, call 888-STAR-YES (888-782-7937) toll free. Source: Environmental Protection Agency, 10/2/2014