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Illinois Country Living


Commentary:

John Freitag
John Freitag is the vice president of operations for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

HomE program invests $2.5 million
Co-op members upgrade efficiency and save 20 million kWh

Electric cooperative members and co-op member services professionals continue to make the HomE program the most successful residential energy efficiency program in downstate Illinois history. By working together through the statewide organization, the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC), electric co-ops have accessed $2.5 million in ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funding.

These funds have been used to provide rebates to cooperative members who make residential energy efficiency upgrades that are approved for HomE by their local co-op energy professionals. This program started last May. In the nine months following that startup, the results have been nothing short of spectacular. All 25 AIEC member-cooperatives participated in HomE, stretching the program from Galena to Golconda.

The HomE process begins with a home energy assessment. A co-op representative visits the member’s home and provides recommendations on how to improve the home’s energy efficiency. To date, more than 2,600 of these energy assessments have been completed.

Of these 2,600 members, more than 2,100 of them have made home improvements that will save them lots of energy and dollars in the future - while often qualifying the member for a rebate of up to $1,500. Through mid-February, HomE has helped almost 450 co-op members to upgrade the insulation in their homes. Insulation and lighting are probably the most simple and cost effective energy efficiency measures that people can do in their homes.

More than 1,800 co-op members have upgraded their home’s heating and/or cooling system through this program. Every one of these upgrades means an energy efficiency improvement of at least 20 percent for the homeowner. But some will do much better than that.

Nearly 1,000 of these members have upgraded to a very high efficiency air-source heat pump, or ultra-high efficiency geothermal heat pump system for their homes. In many of these cases, the member was replacing an old traditional propane furnace and central air system … where the gas furnace was 80 percent efficient, or perhaps less, and the cooling system was old and relatively inefficient. The new air-source heat pumps provide 200-plus percent efficiency, or doubling the energy efficiency of the heating/cooling system. For those members installing geothermal, the efficiency levels of the new equipment is 350-400 percent.

The energy efficiency improvements for the individual cooperative member are solid and real. Home comfort is improved, and cost of home operation is reduced. And when we combine every one of those individual HomE projects together, the energy efficiency upgrades are staggering and eye opening. The old advice about “every little bit counts,” really applies to HomE.

We anticipate that when the program wraps up later this year, co-op members across the state will save more than the equivalent of 20 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year … every year going forward. This equals the output of a small wind farm, or small electric power plant. Along with the energy savings from these improvements, more than 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide will stay out of the atmosphere every year because of the HomE upgrades.

HomE is helping to incent the best kind of renewable energy of all - energy that is saved and doesn’t have to be produced in the first place. Energy efficiency saves valuable resources, helps the environment and - helps keep money in co-op members’ pockets every month.

Have you been thinking about making energy efficiency improvements to your home? If so, now’s the time to contact your local co-op. Federal tax credits for residential energy efficiency continue on in 2011, and combining these incentives with HomE should be just the push to make improvements now rather than waiting until “one of these days” rolls around.

For more information, contact one of the energy professionals at your local electric cooperative.

 


John Freitag is the vice president of operations for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, jfreitag@aiec.coop, 217-241-7973, www.aiec.coop

 

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