Focus on Energy Efficiency
Called the “power plant that never has to be built,” energy efficiency (EE) can reduce costs and lessen the environmental impact of power generation, making it an important goal for both utilities and electricity consumers. The effort to assure reliable and affordable electricity for rural consumers depends not only on finding new sources of competitively priced base load and renewable power, but also on emphasizing the wise use of existing generation capacity in homes and businesses. This is why Ohio’s 25 member-owned rural electric cooperatives are EE leaders, continuing a tradition begun more than 40 years ago that has saved millions of dollars and thousands of megawatts.
Buckeye Power, Inc., the generation-and-transmission (G&T) cooperative owned by Ohio’s rural electrics, launched its load management program in 1973. The program has grown to include more than 112,000 radio-controlled demand response (DR) switches on water heaters, 6,700 on heating systems and nearly 5,000 on air conditioning units. Buckeye Power’s total demand response program, including interruptible contracts, exceeds 53 megawatts (MW) in the summer and 100 MW in winter. Load management ability continues to grow as electric cooperatives promote the Cool Returns air conditioner program with rebates for installation of DR switches that cycle air conditioner compressors during times of high use. It is estimated that the load management program has saved approximately $150 million in energy costs for electric co-op members in Ohio over its long history.
Demand response savings result from making EE appealing to consumers through education about savings and the offer of incentives. Ohio electric cooperatives and Buckeye Power’s success in load management is due in part to promotion of consumer awareness and by making rate discounts and upfront rebates available for installation of energy efficient heating/cooling systems with DR switches. Various demand response rebate programs have included dual fuel systems (electric heat pump and fossil fuel furnace combinations), geothermal systems, water heaters, electro-thermal storage (ETS) and the Cool Returns air conditioner program.
Ohio electric cooperatives blazed the trail in EE consumer education, starting decades ago in response to members’ desire to control energy use and lower their electricity bills. Co-ops keep abreast of the latest in EE consumer education and pass this information along to members, from simple tips on lowering winter heating bills to advice on payback from residential geothermal systems. Using the statewide monthly publication, Country Living magazine (circulation 297,000), and specialized EE brochures, Internet sites, on-line energy audits and calculators, CDs, and videos, co-ops promote interest in energy savings through residential and commercial efficiency upgrades and wise personal/family energy behaviors.
CFL Exchange Program
Launched in 2008, the Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Exchange aims to replace 1 million inefficient incandescent light bulbs with free CFLs, which use less energy and last longer. Individual Ohio electric co-ops administer the statewide program in their respective electric service territories, with Buckeye Power providing the funding for and handling the bulk purchase of CFLs. More than 700,000 CFLs have been shipped for distribution by Ohio electric co-ops, along with educational brochures for distribution to co-op members as part of the marketing campaign.
Energy Advisor Campaign
The Energy Advisor Campaign, begun in 2006, positioned Ohio electric co-ops to become a trusted and reliable source of energy information for their members, whatever question might arise about EE building, remodeling, weather proofing or replacing an appliance. Electric cooperatives have designated energy advisors on staff to help residential and small commercial accounts. Many are trained in blower door testing, thermal imaging and energy auditing. The Web site www.YourEnergyAdvisor.coop provides links to contact information for each Ohio electric co-op energy advisor, in addition to brochures and other material about home energy audits, electric water heaters, heat pumps, demand response, and renewable energy. Annual campaign themes have included caulking and sealing, replacing incandescent light bulbs, avoiding energy vampires, big screen TV energy use and “ditch the old ‘fridge” for energy savings.
Energy Audits for C&I Accounts
Buckeye Power offers reimbursement of 50 percent (up to $5,000) for professional energy audits of commercial and industrial accounts served by Ohio electric cooperatives. Buckeye Power also offers a quarterly C&I on-line newsletter and “Ask an Expert” service.
Touchstone Energy® Homes
Cooperatives are involved in promoting the construction of new high-energy performance houses through the Touchstone Energy® (TE) Homes certification program. Participating contractors build to TE Home and ENERGY STAR® certification standards. Buckeye Power pays for the cost of certification and provides marketing collateral to assist in the promotion of the EE homes. To date, 62 TE homes have been certified, and many more are under construction. Eleven co-ops are currently offering TE Home certification in their service areas. Builders and contractors have access to a quarterly on-line newsletter with an “Ask and Expert” feature.
Energy Efficiency R&D
Ohio electric cooperatives and Buckeye Power are part of cutting edge research, development and field-testing of new EE products, an effort to aid in getting promising new technology to market. Currently, projects include LED (light emitting diode) outdoor lighting at Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives and Buckeye Power headquarters in Columbus; a field test of a below-zero heat pump unit and an add-on heat pump water heating device; small wind turbine and solar panel demonstration projects; and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, Plug-In 1, part of a national fleet of PHEVs being monitored for performance.