Nebraska City Utilities celebrates Arbor Day year-round

Trees are so beautiful and useful—they provide food, fuel and lumber, prevent soil erosion, cool the planet and inspire poets—so it is fitting that they have their own national holiday: Arbor Day. It is also fitting that the city that held the first Arbor Day in 1872 makes tree planting a part of its ongoing resource planning efforts.

The home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, is now an historic landmark and park in Nebraska City.
The home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, is now an historic landmark and park in Nebraska City. (Photo by Arbor Day Farm)

Recognizing the important role trees play in the environment and in its history, Nebraska City Utilities You are leaving (NCU) offers its customers not one, but two tree planting programs. Customers can choose the municipal utility’s own “Energy Saving Tree” program.  Also offered in partnership with the National Arbor Day FoundationYou are leaving (NADF) is the foundation’s “Three Free Trees” program, which NCU helps to facilitate for its customers. Both programs give NCU the chance to educate customers about planting “the right tree in the right place,” and together have saved more than 67,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Tale of two programs
The “Energy Saving Tree” program reimburses the customer for half the cost of a pre-approved tree up to $100. “An NCU arborist—someone from our tree line clearance crew —helps the homeowner pick the spot to plant it based on best tree-planting practices,” explained NCU General Manager Leroy Frana.

Wire-friendly varieties that are eligible for the rebate include the Armur maple, hedge maple, serviceberry, eastern redbud, flowering crabapple, Japanese tree lilac and thornless cockspur hawthorn.

Participants receive the reimbursement as a credit on their bill and then enjoy lower utility bills during the summer cooling season. The strategically planted tree also increases the value of the property.

National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Three Free Trees” provides up to three trees of 2 to 4 feet in height at no cost to the customer. The truly dedicated environmentalist can get 10 free seedling trees by joining the foundation. The trees come to the customer by mail and the NADF website helps them with choosing the site for planting. “We budget for 100 trees annually,” said Frana, “It’s a popular program because everybody loves getting something for free.”

Tree-lined history
Soon after arriving in Nebraska City in 1854, journalist J. Sterling Morton began planting orchards, experimenting with various crops and spreading the gospel of trees and conservation to his fellow pioneers. The vast expanse of treeless prairie needed windbreaks to prevent soil erosion, and settlers need building material and shade. Morton not only encouraged individuals to plant trees; he urged civic groups to join in. His work led to an appointment as Secretary of the Nebraska Territory.

Morton organized the first “tree-planting holiday” in 1872 and it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska by individuals and counties in celebration. Nebraska declared Arbor Day a state holiday in 1885 and chose April 22, Morton’s birthday, as its permanent date.

Today, Arbor Day is celebrated around the world on different dates (based on the best time to plant trees in the region), and Morton’s Nebraska City farm is now a 260‐acre National Historic Landmark known as the Arbor Day FarmYou are leaving

Like most states, Nebraska now celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of April. Frana recalled having their newly purchased tree riding a float with his children in the city’s 2011 Arbor Day parade, and planting the State Street Maple at their home later in the day. “That tree is about 16 or 18 feet tall now,” he said.

Plant your future
Planting trees is a good investment for a utility even if it is not in the middle of the Great Plains. Nationwide, the Energy Saving Trees program has saved more than 300 million kWh and 4 million therms, sequestered or avoided almost 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and provided $106 million in combined energy and community benefits. To put it in personal terms, “Shading the home is one of the best ways to cut your electric air conditioning load,” Frana pointed out.

Utilities that partner with the Arbor Day Foundation on the Energy Saving Trees program will get help building their program with educational resources, celebration materials and more. Partners can use a calculator on the NADF website to help homeowners determine the right tree for the right place and show much money planting it will save them. Participating in the program can generate positive media attention for your utility, raise public awareness about your programs and beautify your community.

Join other WAPA customers like Sacramento Municipal Utility DistrictYou are leaving Colorado Springs Utilities You are leaving and, of course, Nebraska City Utilities in planting for the future. Show your customers that you believe as J. Sterling Morton did, that each generation takes the earth as a trustee. Happy Arbor Day from WAPA and Nebraska City Utilities!

Around the web: Cool summer electricity bills with Energy Saver infographic

We are now officially in the dog days of summer with all its attendant peaks and calls about high electric bills.AroundTheWeb

Maybe you have already sent out our Cooling Tip Sheet bill stuffer, but repetition is the secret to education. Everything You Need to Know About Home Cooling, an infographic from the Department of Energy (DOE), offers another simple and effective way to remind your customers that they can take control of their energy use, even when it is hot, hot, hot.

The infographic starts off with the sobering truth about cooling. Air conditioners use about 5 percent of all the electricity produced in the U.S., and homeowners spend more than $11 billion a year to beat the heat. That sets the stage for the hopeful news that customers can save 20 to 50 percent on home cooling. (Hint: It involves upgrading to a high-efficiency air conditioner, a helpful factoid if your utility just happens to offer an incentive program.)

In addition to advice on efficiency and maintenance, the infographic covers different options for cooling, along with the costs, pros and cons of each type of equipment. There is also a brief explanation of how an air conditioner works and some tips for troubleshooting.

This slide from DOE Energy Saver would make a great handout at your next customer event. (Art by DOE Energy Saver)
This slide from DOE Energy Saver would make a great handout at your next customer event. (Art by DOE Energy Saver)

Energy Saver, DOE’s program to help consumers reduce their carbon footprint, created the infographic as well as a series of slides, available to download. Print the whole series for visuals and handouts at customer meetings and outreach events.

While you are visiting the Energy Saver website, check out other tips and materials you can share with customers. It is always the right season to educate your customers on how to save some cash while improving their comfort. And to help your member services representatives keep their cool throughout the year.

Source: DOE Energy Saver

SRP surpasses energy-efficiency goals, heads for sustainability

Salt River Project You are leaving exceeded its annual goal of helping residential and commercial customers save energy and money through the Phoenix, Arizona-based utility’s energy-efficiency programs and initiatives.

Last year, SRP’s energy-efficiency programs for both residential and commercial customers provided annual energy savings equal to 2.3 percent of SRP’s retail energy sales. The Fiscal Year 2014 program goal was 1.5 percent of retail sales, so saving 640 million kilowatt-hours—the equivalent annual energy use of 35,000 homes—is quite an accomplishment.

“The energy-efficiency goal is part of our longer term Sustainable Portfolio Objective,” explained Dan Dreiling, SRP director of Market Research and Customer Programs. “SRP established an objective to meet 20 percent of our expected retail energy requirements with sustainable resources by 2020. Sustainable resources include energy efficiency, hydroelectric generation and other renewable generation.”

Energy efficiency is proving to be not only the most cost-effective way for SRP to help customers save energy and money, but also the sustainable resource with the most potential. The largest savings came from the Retail Lighting Program, which offered customers discounted prices on LED and CFL light bulbs. Reduced prices, which SRP provides to several big box retailers and home center stores, drove annual customer purchases to more than 2 million lamps.

Retail lighting programs, both commercial and residential, provided SRP with its biggest energy savings. (Photo by Salt River Project)
Retail lighting programs, both commercial and residential, provided SRP with its biggest energy savings. (Photo by Salt River Project)

Dreiling attributes the program’s considerable success to partnering with large, recognizable retailers, offering a diverse product mix and providing meaningful discounts on popular products. An effective multi-channel marketing campaign helped to spread the word to a relatively young energy-efficiency marketplace.

Cooling and more
Other high-performing programs that contributed to the goal include appliance recycling, Energy Star New Homes and rebates for Energy Star-certified, variable-speed pool pumps and, of course, efficient air conditioners. SRP offers substantial rebates for air conditioners and heat pumps with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, of 15 or higher.

The air conditioner rebate was so attractive that one energy-savvy SRP customer couldn’t resist. “Since I work in Energy Services, I am very aware of our home energy use,” said Western Public Utilities Specialist Patricia Weeks. “For the last several years, we have been watching our utility bills increase, and I suspected that our two 20-year-old, heating-and-cooling units were to blame.”

Weeks purchased two energy-efficient systems that qualified for the SRP rebate last winter. “Our home is more comfortable and our utility bill is averaging $24 less per month compared to last year,” she stated.

Residential customers also increased their comfort and savings with comprehensive home assessments and rebates for services and products such as home duct repair and window shade screens. “In terms of motivation,” Dreiling observed, “we have learned that increasing comfort and convenience is just as important to customers as saving money on their utility bill.”

For ‘bottom liners’
Lighting was the source of most of SRP’s commercial energy savings. Enhanced lighting rebates through Standard Business Solutions, large commercial and industry energy-efficiency projects through Custom Business Solutions and lighting retrofit projects under the Small Business Solutions program collectively saved nearly 179,000 MWhs of energy.

Fry’s Food Stores, You are leaving a Phoenix supermarket chain, participated in the SRP Business Solutions rebate programs to implement 50 projects in 30 metropolitan stores. So far, the grocery retailer has realized about 1.2 million kWh per year in energy savings. “SRP rebate programs help Fry’s continue to reduce our carbon footprint, which is good for the environment as well as our bottom line,” said Ben Tan, energy manager of Fry’s Food Stores Facilities Engineering.

Dreiling acknowledged that reaching commercial customers with efficiency programs is a challenge for SRP, as it is for so many utilities. “But we are seeing more and more customers moving in this direction,” he noted. “It comes down to demonstrating that efficiency is a value proposition, not only for the organization, but its customers, as well.”

The best advertisement for business efficiency programs is a success story like Fry’s Food Stores, he added.

Up next
Perhaps the biggest challenge an energy-efficiency program faces after a successful year is how to build on that success.

While the popular lighting program will continue, SRP plans to put more emphasis on its residential whole-house program in the coming year. Comprehensive solutions for the entire home have a higher price tag than energy-efficient light bulbs, but produce deeper energy savings for the homeowner. “We will continue to offer specific air conditioner-related savings measures, as well,” said Dreiling. “In Arizona, air conditioning is a primary energy consumer so managing that load is key to deferring future resource needs.”

Thanks to commitment and savvy energy planning, SRP seems well prepared for the future. The timetable for meeting its goal of 20 percent sustainable resources by 2020 is already ahead of schedule. Almost 13 percent of its retail energy needs currently come from wind, geothermal, solar, landfill gas, biomass and hydropower, as well as energy-efficiency programs. In balancing reliability, affordability and environmental stewardship, SRP is proving that energy efficiency tips the scale toward success.

Updated Cooling Tip Sheet, bill stuffer now available

Spring is here and it is time to start thinking about your cooling load—how to manage those hot weather peaks and what to tell customers when they call about their electric bills from those days. Better yet, you could talk to your customers now to prevent sticker shock later.

Energy Services has updated its popular seasonal fact sheet, The Tip Sheet: Cooling System Maintenance, and created a new bill stuffer version. Both pdfs are two-sided, four-color and allow room for you to customize with your utility’s logo. The 8.5-by-11-inch sheet makes a perfect quick and inexpensive handout for customer meetings, while the bill stuffer is designed to fit into a number nine envelope.

The Tip Sheet provides an overview of simple steps consumers can take to get the best cooling and energy performance from their air conditioners. On the front page you will find a check list of maintenance tasks, which units need that type of service, how to do it and why. The second side offers additional suggestions and websites where consumers can learn more about taking care of cooling systems.

Utilities that don’t have the time or the staff to develop outreach material can download the sheet or bill stuffer and imprint it with their logos, or contact Energy Services to set up the printer-ready artwork for you. Use your own printer to produce handouts as you need them, or take the master to a quick printer for more options.

The Tip Sheet and bill stuffer are the ultimate in flexible, convenient collateral material, and it is free to Western customers, including setup if required. If you don’t need assistance from Energy Services, we would appreciate knowing that you used The Tip Sheet. We also welcome your ideas for other single-page and bill stuffer material.

This week in webinars

The coming week offers many educational opportunities for Energy Services professionals. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Sustainable Energy Use in the Hotel Industry
    August 21, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 pm MDT
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership (GPP) hosts a webinar featuring information about sustainability in the hotel industry, including success stories from two EPA Green Power Partners that have incorporated green power into their sustainability initiatives, as well as support available to hotels that want to go green. Utilities that serve resort areas might recommend this webinar to large key accounts. Register nowRedirecting to a non-government site 
  • LED Parking and Area Lighting
    August 22, 1-2:00 p.m. MDT
    This webinar, the first in a series on emerging energy-efficiency technologies, explores the benefits, issues and current state of high-efficiency lighting technology. The presentations will include case studies and related energy-saving advances in lighting. Register hereRedirecting to a non-government site 
  • Maximizing Building Envelops for Cooler Environments
    August 23, 11:00 a.m. MST
    The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and the Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC) are hosting this energy-efficient cooling information webinar. Efficient air conditioning can only do so much to improve the comfort and reduce energy consumption. This webinar will cover cooling efficiency measures that focus on the building shell. Reserve your webinar seatRedirecting to a non-government site 
  • Craft-Brewing Energy Efficiency
    August 23, 1:00 p.m. MDT
    The popularity of microbrew beer is growing across the country and especially in the West. Discover practical ways your brewer customers can incorporate energy efficiency into their brewing process and reconnect ancient arts with today’s aspirations for Sustainable Brew. Register todayRedirecting to a non-government site