New Web site offers volunteer opportunities
The University of Illinois Chicago created a new Web site designed to facilitate volunteerism among members of the UIC community. At www.uicvolunteer.org, you can select from thousands of volunteer opportunities all over the country – all you do is enter your zip code to view volunteer opportunities that are available. You can also search by your area of interest.
Illinois Electric Cooperatives Receive Smart Grid Grant
Illinois electric co-ops have already made investments in smart meters like this one. Now several Illinois co-ops will join the National Rural Electric Cooperative’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN) in smart grid research and demonstration projects.
The projects will be funded in part by a $33,932,146 Department of Energy Smart Grid Regional Demonstration Grant. Seventeen electric cooperatives across 10 states will match the grants and install and operate a suite of diverse smart grid technologies. Technologies will include over 130,000 meters, over 18,000 demand response switches, nearly 4,000 in-home displays or smart thermostats, and other smart grid technologies. Adams Electric Cooperative, Camp Point; Menard Electric Cooperative, Petersburg; and Prairie Power, Inc., Jacksonville are the Illinois co-ops joining this smart grid research effort.
In addition to customer-focused technologies, the project will include voltage sensors and fault detectors. The demonstration data will be centralized for all sites and include studies on total demand, distributed energy resources, peak pricing, customer appliance control and self-healing technologies for improved reliability.
“These demonstration projects will further our knowledge and understanding of what works best and delivers the best results for the smart grid, setting the course for a modern grid that is critical to achieving our energy goals,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “This funding will be used to show how smart grid technologies can be applied to whole systems to promote energy savings for consumers, increase energy efficiency and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”
Obama Proposes New Home Energy Retrofit Program
President Barack Obama proposed a new rebate program in early December to reward homeowners for making their homes more energy efficient, while also proposing additional federal investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Some are calling it “cash for caulkers.”
As part of a speech about jobs and the economy the president noted that home energy retrofits create jobs, save money for families and reduce the pollution that threatens our environment.
“I'm calling on Congress to consider a new program to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy-efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment.”
Details were sketchy, but some are proposing consumers might be eligible for a 50 percent rebate on both the price of the equipment and the installation of efficiency improvements, up to $12,000. So far, there is no income restriction on who is eligible. It's also not clear how the home efficiency plan would be administered. The government may issue rebates, give a tax credit, or the program might be run by state agencies.
Don’t Get Scammed
The Illinois Department on Aging wants to empower seniors to stop exploitation from home repair and telemarketing scams. In its efforts to spread awareness, the department has issued a “Savvy Senior” campaign with the purpose of educating the aging on scam tactics.
The program has key alerts for each of the scams. In brief, when considering home repair, seniors should know the following: a) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; b) always get estimates; c) don’t pay in advance; d) check references and even call the police to have someone checked out working in your area.
Telemarketing scams can be just as tricky for seniors. To protect yourself against phone scams: a) don’t pay for any prize or send money to improve your chances of winning; b) don’t be bullied into buying “right now;” don’t give your credit card number to anyone over the phone unless you made the call and don’t give any caller your bank account number.
Should you need to report these exploitations or any other type of elder abuse, phone the 24-hour hotline at 866-800-1409.
Burris and 13 Others Stand Up for Fairness in Climate Bill
Several U.S. senators are standing up for consumers after being faced with an unbalanced approach to climate change. In November, Illinois Sen. Roland Burris joined 13 other Senate Democrats in a call for fairness in climate change legislation.
In a letter coordinated by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the chairs of each Senate committee working on the climate change bill, the group declared it’s essential for Congress to fairly distribute emissions allowances to all Americans, no matter where they live.
“I’m thankful we have people in Washington, D.C., looking out for the consumer’s best interest,” says Duane Noland, President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.
“Over the past year, co-op members have been contacting our senators to express their concerns and urge that they make fairness and affordability a priority. Illinois co-op members sent more than 256,000 e-mails and postcards alone. We’re all grateful that Sen. Burris listened to their concerns.”
Congress proposed creating carbon dioxide emissions allowances for these power plants to lessen resulting increases to consumer electric bills.
But under legislation passed by the U.S. House and being considered by the U.S. Senate, these allowances won’t be distributed evenly. As the letter stresses, in areas of the country less dependent on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, consumer electric bills won’t be impacted at all. In fossil fuel-dependant areas — like Illinois — consumers could end up footing higher bills to cover what should be a nationwide initiative.
“Our concerns are being recognized, and it’s crucial we continue to rally for climate change legislation that’s fair, affordable and achievable,” stresses Noland. “We are grateful to Sen. Burris for taking the stand that he did, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and Sen. Durbin toward achieving climate change legislation that is fair for consumers.”
To date more than 600,000 consumers from across the U.S. have asked Congress to craft climate change legislation they can afford.
If you want to send a message join the Our Energy, Our Future™ grassroots campaign by going to www.ourenergy.coop.
Green Cars Go Farther For Less
A few years ago the Toyota Prius was the go-to model for those with an environmental conscience and up to $30,000 to pay for the privilege of getting 35-40 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 45-55 on the highway. Today there are more choices. The Honda Insight is a hybrid available for less than $20,000. Other options include hybrid versions of Honda’s Civic ($23,800), Nissan’s Altima ($26,780), Ford’s Fusion ($27,625) and Escape SUV ($31,500), Mercury’s Milan ($31,590) and Mariner SUV ($29,995), Toyota’s Camry ($26,150) and Highlander SUV ($34,700).
Smaller cars with regular gasoline engines also get great mileage, lower emissions and cost less. Examples include the Corolla ($15,350), Matrix ($16,550) and Yaris ($12,355) from Toyota, Honda’s Fit ($14,900), the Mazda 3 ($16,045), Chevy’s Aveo ($11,965) and Cobalt ($14,990), the Hyundai’s Accent ($9,970) and Elantra ($14,145), Pontiac’s G3 ($14,335), the Kia Rio ($11,495), the MINI Cooper ($19,500), Ford’s Focus ($15,995), and the Smart Car ForTwo ($11,990). For more go to www.greencar.com or www.fueleconomy.gov.
Jobs Available for Census Takers
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Chicago Regional Census Center says about 100,000 people are now being recruited across Illinois to work as census takers for the 2010 Census between December, 2009 and June, 2010. Tests for these positions, which pay between $11.50 and $18.25 per hour, are taking place through January.
Conducted every decade since 1790, the Census determines the number of seats Illinois will have in the House of Representatives. It also affects the apportionment of political districts as well as leads to the accurate distribution of community funding for schools, roads, neighborhood improvements, elderly care and the like.
The Census hires locally. Testing times and locations across Illinois are available by calling, toll free, 1-866-861-2010. More information about the positions, including application forms and a practice test, are available at the 2010 Census Web site www.2010censusjobs.gov.
Man Escapes Injury from Power Lines by Staying in Vehicle
An early morning accident in Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative’s (RECC) territory could have been much worse except for the quick thinking of one of the accident victims. A truck driven by an off-duty utility worker was hit during a foggy November morning, flipped over and hit a RECC riser pole.
When RECC employee Tim Hemberger arrived at the scene, he disconnected the power from a switching cabinet and then grounded the lines lying on top of the truck.
Hemberger reported that one of the lines was indeed energized. Within seconds the driver was able to remove himself from the vehicle. He told Hemberger he thought he heard arcing and knew he should stay in his vehicle until utility help arrived to de-energize the lines. Both drivers escaped with non-life threatening injuries. It took seven linemen all day to replace the riser pole and accompanying lines.
If you should ever be in, or come across, an accident involving power lines the smart thing to do is to stay in your vehicle until utility workers can de-energize the lines. Just because you don’t see or hear arcing does not mean the lines are grounded. If you have to leave your vehicle you should do so with your feet together and hop to safety. Don’t become the path to ground. To learn more about being safe around electricity, go to www.safeelectricity.org.