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Energy Efficiency Rebates: Are You Getting the Word Out?

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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  • Sep 17, 2021 11:15 pm GMT
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Efficiency is important in all things. 

When management uses resources efficiently, they are able to maximize production.  We are efficient when we prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities. Efficiency is important for profitability and by increasing it we save time and money.  It has been defined as the fundamental reduction in the amount of wasted resources. 

The increasing demand for energy makes efficiency paramount. Residential housing already accounts for roughly one-third of the nation’s electricity consumption.  White House economists are saying Biden's budget bill and a bipartisan infrastructure bill will increase energy efficiency, cut electricity costs and protect consumers from the "high costs of inaction" on climate.

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Biden’s bill would even help consumers purchase energy-efficient appliances.  Economist wrote, "Well-targeted federal funding, such as consumer rebates for home retrofits, can incentivize investments that provide net benefits to the country while enabling American families to consume less energy—reducing energy bills in the process.”

One family in Washington state has already taken advantage of a local program incentivizing retrofits.  The family was eligible for the Community Energy Challenge’s Toward Net Zero Energy project, a pilot program that identified opportunities, costs and barriers to decarbonizing existing homes.

But how did they hear about the program? Homeowner, Kat McAvoy, came across an advertisement for the Community Energy Challenge.  Being part of the program gave them access to $15,000 in grants and an energy audit provided a plan of action. The total cost of the deep energy retrofit was about $51,500, which the family covered $30,000 of.  The whole process took 2 years to complete but the increased energy efficiency means the family’s electric bill is only $40-$50 a month.  It didn’t happen overnight but the long-term savings made it well worth the time and effort.  Having a better understanding of their electricity usage and learning about ways to save empowered the homeowners to take action.  

Knowledge is power and in this case, literally saves power and money for businesses and homeowners.   In the state of Minnesota, various utilities, local governments, and nonprofit organizations offer incentives to urge residential and commercial customers to decrease their energy use through efficiency. 

However, many small business owners like Fatima Landaverde, owner of Rincon Chalateco restaurant, are unaware of the opportunities available to her.  Leslee Gutiérrez, a climate justice organizer with the nonprofit immigrant advocacy group Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action (COPAL), and Fritz Ebinger, a member of the Clean Energy Resource Teams with University of Minnesota Extension, are conducting interviews with small business owners to let them know about the various energy efficiency programs available.

Teams are going door-to-door, asking small business owners about their energy bills, improvements they need to make, and whether they are aware of rebates available for upgrading to more energy efficient equipment. They discovered that there are several barriers blocking local business owners from energy savings.  The first is common for small business owners and that is, they are simply too busy. Getting a new energy-efficient refrigerator to qualify for a utility rebate isn’t always at the top of their list.

The second is language. Larger utility companies, like Xcel Energy, have information in multiple languages but smaller municipal providers do not and that makes it hard to educate customers about rebates. Researchers are still collecting invaluable data that could help everyone in the area operate more efficiently.

We can learn a lot from Washington's marketing and Minnesota's hands on approach for data gathering, educating customers, advertising rebates and ultimately increasing energy efficiency.  What is your utility doing to reach and educate homeowners and small business owners?

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