Left to right: NRECA CEO Glenn English; Midwest Energy President and General Manager Earnie Lehman; Midwest Energy Board Chairman John Blackwell; NRECA Board Chairman Mike Guidry
Photo credit: Luis Gomez
San Diego, CA.; March 5, 2012 — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today awarded Kansas cooperative Midwest Energy with its 2012 National Community Service Award for Energy Efficiency. The cooperative was recognized for its innovative energy efficiency investment program, How$mart.
For years, Midwest Energy had been providing energy audits to its consumers, making recommendations that were often not followed through. The cooperative identified that there were significant barriers to implementing energy efficiency upgrades for many of its consumers, including the high cost of some of the improvements and lack of incentive for landlords to make improvements for tenants who pay the electric bill.
To overcome these barriers, Midwest Energy devised its How$mart program. Participating customers receive an energy audit, and Midwest Energy develops a conservation plan for the home. Once customers have chosen which recommendations they would like to implement, Midwest Energy hires the contractor to complete them and recovers the cost on the consumer’s electric bill. The charges to customers for repayment must be less than the customers’ savings.
Midwest Energy began implementing its program four years ago, and in that time, the program has received four national recognitions and inspired similar programs in other states. More than 650 homes and businesses have participated in the program, saving 1.4 million kWh and a net cost of $65,000 annually, or about $8 per customer per month even after the repayment charge on the bill.
The program has the added benefits of improving safety of homes and businesses as outdated and unsafe appliances are replaced. In addition, the program provides business for local contractors who install the efficiency upgrades, many of whom are the program’s best marketing tools.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.
More than 8,000 representatives from cooperative electric utilities across the nation are attending the NRECA Annual Meeting March 4-7 in San Diego, Calif., during which they will set NRECA’s legislative and organizational agenda for 2012. In addition to considering and acting upon policy resolutions, delegates receive reports from NRECA officials, hear addresses by key public figures and business experts, and attend educational forums on major issues affecting electric cooperatives and their consumer owners.