Archive for Sunday, July 11, 2010

Black Hills, Westar share proposals

July 11, 2010


Black Hills Energy

What Black Hills Energy will offer:

Black Hills Energy’s plan would cover home energy audits and rebates on energy-efficient water heaters, furnaces and boilers.

The natural gas utility would also pay up to $750 for upgrades such as insulation that improve a home’s thermal envelope.

For builders, the utility would provide rebates of up to $5,000 for new homes that have high energy efficiency ratings.

The plan also includes programs for low-income consumers and energy efficiency education geared toward school children.

What the plan would cost:

To cover the $12.5 million program, Black Hills is asking to increase rates by $13 a year for the average residential customer.

Those who don’t participate in the program could see their bills go up by $26 a year on average.

In its first year, the plan is expected to reach about 3,000 of Black Hills’ 110,000 regional customers.

How the plan could change the gas bill:

The utility is also asking to change the structure of how it charges for natural gas. Today, Black Hills gathers revenue based on how much natural gas its consumers use.

As part of its energy efficiency proposal, Black Hills is requesting revenue decoupling, which would require that the Kansas Corporation Commission set how much revenue the utility could generate and then have the utility collect that set amount from consumers.

The company is also asking to share a portion of the savings generated by the energy efficiency programs.

Under the proposal, Black Hills shareholders would receive 10 percent of the total net benefit from the energy savings.

Westar Energy

What Westar Energy offers now:

Unlike Black Hills, Westar isn’t bringing one comprehensive energy efficiency plan to the KCC, said Gina Penzig, consumer services manager for the company. Instead, the utility is receiving approval program by program.

Already, the electric utility has put three energy efficiency programs in place.

Across its service area, Westar has been installing programmable thermostats for free.

The thermostats allow users to change the temperature over the Internet.

In return, Westar can tap into the thermostat during hot summer days and turn off air conditioners 15 minutes at a time.

Doing so allows Westar to reduce the amount of energy needed when demand is at its highest.

Westar also has a program that covers half the cost of a 56-hour class geared toward showing facility managers places in their company they can save on energy consumption.

Also, the utility has an education program that sends employees and volunteers to classrooms, community events and homeshows to talk about what residents can do to reduce energy consumption.

What Westar will offer in the future:

In the near future, Penzig said Westar plans to offer classes that provides homeowner education on energy conservation, such as how to caulk windows and cleaning refrigerator coils.

Westar also wants to participate in the Efficiency Kansas program, which provides low-interest loans for energy efficiency upgrades in homes.

Residents then repay those loans overtime through utility bills.

What the plan will cost:

So far, Westar customers haven’t seen a rate increase for the utility’s energy efficiency programs. But they probably will.

Penzig said the company has kept an account in place that tracks how much they’ve spent on the program.

The company plans to file a request with the KCC to put a surcharge on the electric bill to recoup the cost of energy efficiency programs, similar to what it does now for its environmental costs.

While Penzig said the company doesn’t have an exact figure of how much could be added onto the average electric bill, she predicts it wouldn’t be more than a few cents per month.


jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

The best, easiest and most immediate way for all of us to reduce our consumption and lower our bills is to simply use less energy.

Adjust the thermostat. Use blinds - more closed on hot summer days, and open on winter ones. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact florescent ones. Turn the thermostat down at night or don't heat at night at all in the winter. Open the windows and don't use heating/cooling systems at all when feasible.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 7 months ago

All good recommendations, jafs, but leave out two big ones: your furnace and a/c unit. I replaaced a 65 % efficiency furnace with a 95% efficiency furnace last December and my usage plummeted. The problem with these items is the upfront cost. Westar's adoption of Efficiency Kansas will allow furnaces and a/c units be installed at no up front costs to its customers and immediate savings on their utility bills. Plus, they will have a home energy audit which will point out any leakage in their homes and steps to take care of it. Insulation will be covered under this program as well and that is an up front price challenge as well.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

The money has to come from somewhere.

If the utilities pay for it, they want to charge all of us for it, including some sort of profit arrangement.

If the government does it, they can do it without the profit arrangement, which would be better, imho.

And, that's why I said my suggestions were the easiest and most immediate - they don't require expensive investments and can be done right now by anybody who wants to do so.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 7 months ago

But Efficiency Kansas is the best of both worlds. A customer could qualify for a new furnace or a/c unit at no up front cost. The savings each month would be split between the customer and the utility until the amount for the unit and installment is paid for. There is no interest charge to the customer for this transaction either. Also a home energy audit would have been done and expert advice given to the homeowner to show other options that would help lower their bill.

Extra bonus: this would benefit many tenants as landlords are notorious for not wanting to invest in ee in rental units.

Tony Kisner 7 years, 7 months ago

The proposal from your gas company should read, "the gas company will then take your money and give it to someone else." Black Hills is not exactly telling the truth when is says It will provide money to builders, homeowners.

If Westar is not saving money with its program then is it working correctly? The idea is for Westar not to go to the electric market and buy energy durning peak demand times which cost more than the electricity produced at its plants. Is this not happening? Sounds like a business plan that did not work but the rate payer will be expected to pick up the tab. Westar should just give all of its investors a big dividend, give it a business case justification and ask the State to pick your pocket to clean up the mistake.

These proposal are based on the idea that the consumer is too stupid to figure out how to save money. If there is housing that is leaking that much energy they probably should be un-occupied.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 7 months ago

Actually Westar's plan is based on Midwest Energy's very popular "HouseSmart" plan which had been adopted as a best practices concept by the KCC and renamed "Efficiency Kansas".

Remember, in the past utilities earn less money when consumers used less power. By de-coupling or some other incentive, utilities will not be punished by assisting their customers in energy savings. A home energy audit is a critical step forward in this process and having the utilities cover the up front cost is very important. The information the customer will have in hand will assist them in making wise decisions in upgrading their homes efficiency.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

The conflict of interest utility companies have regarding usage is precisely why they're a bad entity to be running energy efficiency programs.

Instead of trying to give them an "incentive" which punishes customers who use less, why not let the government run the programs?

Bill Griffith 7 years, 7 months ago

The state of Kansas would be fairly slow and inept at this since it would not have a profit incentive. Give the utilities a fair rate of return such as they get for building new generation and they will be the best choice in lieu of something like Vermont has. There should be penalties for failure to meet certain goals within the program, however. Please don't think I am a utility company apologist-because I am decidedly not.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

That would be true for any and all government and non-profit entities if it's true.

I'm not sure it's at all true.

Simple government rebates for buying energy-efficient appliances, etc. seem to have been pretty easy to run in the past.

Centerville 7 years, 7 months ago

Actually Westar's plan is based on Midwest Energy's very popular "HouseSmart" plan which had been adopted as a best practices concept by the KCC and renamed "Efficiency Kansas".

Consider the source of some of this snake oil and beware.

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