Snohomish PUD customers finding savings through Community Power! program

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More than 5,500 homes and 170 businesses are saving energy after working with Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) the last two years on a broad range of energy-efficiency projects under the utility’s Community Power! program.

Customers collectively have saved more than 5.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to serve nearly 450 homes – or about $450,000 in total annual savings, the PUD said. Community Power! received considerable support from grassroots efforts in the communities it served.

“This community-driven program has allowed us to build on our successful energy efficiency partnerships with local governments, trade allies and community leaders,” said PUD General Manager Steve Klein. “It helps our customers save on energy costs, raises awareness of conservation and provides additional jobs in the region.”

Community Power!, a two-year initiative, resulted in more than 27,000 workforce hours in Snohomish County communities. It was a partnership between the PUD, the City of Everett, Snohomish County and the Washington State University Energy Extension. It was funded in part through federal stimulus grants under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act to serve single family homes, multi-family complexes and small businesses.

In reaching out to homeowners, program staff engaged directly with community groups and volunteers – at neighborhood association meetings, block watches and other events – to provide conservation resources, such as free home energy assessments, compact fluorescent lights, smart power strips and other measures.

One promotion employed peer-to-peer marketing to engage more homeowners by empowering them to “team up and save.”  The promotion was set up to allow five or more Snohomish County households to team up – with family, friends and neighbors – to receive free energy assessments for each home. Hundreds of customers signed on to the popular program.

“In addition to working with single-family homeowners, the program targeted energy savings in hard-to-reach market segments, specifically multi-family buildings and small businesses with rented or leased space,” said Program Manager Nicole Moreland. “Our trade ally partners were instrumental in reaching out to these customers, explaining project benefits and delivering the savings.”

For small businesses, the program provided highly attractive incentives to install efficient lighting. All types of businesses participated, from mini marts to fitness centers to bridal shops.

Bargreen Ellingson, a participating food service supply business, worked with the PUD to install energy-efficient lighting throughout its store. With program incentives, the project will pay for itself in just months and save the business nearly $2,000 annually in lighting expenses.

Community Power! piloted new and improved service delivery models that will now be incorporated into other utility programs. One example is the direct install program for multi-family units, in which efficient lighting, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators were installed at no cost. The program proved valuable for tenants, property owners and the PUD; it has been added to the utility’s standard program offerings.

As a result of the success of Community Power!, the PUD said it is now developing an ongoing initiative to partner with local governments and community organizations to achieve mutual goals through energy conservation.

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