The federal stimulus dollars that have been earmarked for energy efficiency may finally make their way into your home next year. But don’t look for cold hard cash.
2011 will be the year that Lawrence residents can take advantage of smart meters, help the community win a $100,000 energy grant and tap into the state’s energy efficiency loan program.
Thanks to a $19 million grant from the federal government, Westar Energy will be installing smart meters in all Lawrence homes and businesses this year.
Residents will be able to go online and see their energy usage broken down by hourly increments, information that is provided one day later. Customers can also set up text message alerts to warn them when a bill reaches a certain level each month or when there is a power outage.
Starting in January, Westar will install the first 1,500 meters in the Deerfield neighborhood. The rest of the meters will start going up in May. In all, 45,000 will deployed throughout the city.
“There is just a lot of interest in what the technology is, how it works, how it can help improve service,” Hal Jensen, the director of the Lawrence SmartStar program, said at a recent open house in Lawrence.
While customers can choose not to do anything at all with the information these smart meters provide, Westar will begin offering pilot rate plans for those who voluntarily want to participate. The idea is that energy will cost more during the times of day when demand is at its highest and cost less during times of low use.
Along with being the guinea pigs for smart meters, Lawrence will get to participate in another city-wide energy experiment in 2011: the Take Charge Challenge.
Over nine months, Lawrence will compete against Manhattan to see who can conserve the most energy. The winner receives a $100,000 grant that will go toward a public energy efficiency project.
The project will launch on Jan. 29, the same day that Kansas State University men’s basketball team plays Kansas University.
Sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project and the Kansas Energy Office, the contest will measure how the two cities stack up in three categories:
- Which city has the highest percentage of residents sign up for a home energy audit and then how many homeowners make changes based on the audit.
- Which community has the highest percentage of residents participate in one of Westar’s energy efficiency programs and change lights to compact fluorescent bulgs.
- Which city has the highest percentage of residents attend special energy efficiency events.
“The exciting thing about the Take Charge Challenge, we aren’t creating any new programs,” said Eileen Horn, who is the sustainability coordinator for the city of Lawrence and Douglas County.
In 2011, Kansas residents will still be able take advantage of the Efficiency Kansas program. More than a year ago, the state was awarded $38 million from the federal government to implement a revolving loan program, which offered a discounted energy audit and then a low-interest loan through a bank or utility company to make the improvements needed to improve the home’s energy efficiency.
In the months to come, Lawrence residents will want to keep an eye on Westar’s application that would allow customers to take out an Efficiency Kansas loan and then repay it through their utility bill. The program has 19 other utilities throughout the state that participate in the program. The Kansas Corporation Commission has to approve Westar’s application.
The once- fledgling program has seen its numbers jump recently with more than 350 audits completed and more than $750,000 worth of low-interest loans made.
“In the last three months, it has really taken off,” said Ray Hammarlund, director of the Kansas Energy Office, the agency overseeing the revolving loan program.