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Statewide energy efficiency campaign aims at $10M in savings
Jennifer Rodrigues

Nicholas Corsetti of National Grid says that his company has the potential to save their customers $10 million by 2014.

How?

Through the Rhode Island Energy Challenge Find Your Four!, a statewide energy efficiency campaign that will challenge all Rhode Islanders to save energy in their homes through simple actions such as unplugging items when they are not in use or using LED bulbs.

The campaign, which was launched at a luncheon Wednesday at Roger Williams Park Casino in Cranston, is a partnership between National Grid, Opower (a Washington, D.C.- and San Francisco-based company that promotes energy efficiency) and SmartPower (a non-profit aiming to help Americans make smart energy choices).

The Rhode Island Energy Challenge is a first of its kind challenge because it is community-based, both online and in the community.

“People are going to be able to go online and see their energy usage versus their neighbors,” explained Matt Ray, outreach manager for SmartPower. “Then they can challenge their neighbors.”

National Grid and SmartPower were on hand to help those at the event start finding ways to lower their energy cost. National Grid is providing sign-ups for free home energy audits through the EnergyWise program. A representative from National Grid will come to examine all the areas of one’s house for energy use and provide a printed report of recommendations to save money on energy.

They will also provide information on rebates and loans, should the home require expensive improvements such as insulation and air sealing.

Just for having the audit, the homeowner will also receive compact fluorescent light bulbs and advanced power strips for free.

And it is not just individual residents who can get in on the fun. The campaign encourages businesses, non-profit organizations and even municipalities to create custom challenges. Those employers or officials can invite their employees/constituents to sign up for Find Your Four! and race to be the first to get 5 percent of their residents, members or employees to reduce their energy consumption. Citizen’s Bank and Banneker Industries in North Smithfield are two businesses in the competition and Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light and People’s Power and Light are two non-profits.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and North Smithfield Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton were at Wednesday’s event to announce their towns’ intention to take part in the challenge. They are the only municipalities to do so thus far.

“We are committed to helping all of our residents, citizens and businesses alike, save on energy costs,” said Fung. “And believe me, Cranston intends on winning.”

The friendly rivalry could be seen as Hamilton explained how her town is already incredibly committed to the environment with one of the largest green and clean days in the state, among other environmental causes.

“It’s already part of the culture,” said Hamilton. “I do echo the sentiments, but I gotta tell you Allan, we’re gonna get there first.”

All joking aside, Fung said the 5 percent goal was reasonable and he was committed to helping his residents become “energy champions,” the honor bestowed on those who find their four.

“I can personally say I am committed to finding my four,” said Fung. “Saving money – who doesn’t like that?”

Although Warwick is not yet involved in the campaign, Mayor Scott Avedisian could join the race, too.

“Giving [residents] four easy ways to accomplish energy savings is just perfect. I look forward to working with Mayor Fung and Town Administrator Hamilton on this issue,” Avedisian said in an e-mail.

He explained Warwick is already very dedicated to saving energy through a program from the University of Rhode Island. Warwick, South Kingston, East Greenwich and Johnston are working to change all of the light bulbs on public property, change traffic lights to LED bulbs and have energy appliance trade-ins. The city also encourages residents to have energy audits.

“This incentive has been well received by our residents,” said Avedisian.

For the Rhode Island Energy Challenge, Ray said that the “four” participants need to find are four simple actions around the house that can reduce one’s energy consumption.

He said it can be as small as unplugging the charger from the wall as opposed to just disconnecting it from one’s phone or laptop.

“It’s the small stuff. The stuff you may not think about,” said Ray. “We’d love you to do more than four, but the goal is four.”

Brain Keane, president of SmartPower, said many homeowners may not realize the biggest energy drain in homes. He said it used to be the refrigerator because it needed to be on all day, every day, but that is no longer the case.

“It’s the flat screen TV,” said Keane, explaining that most flat screen TVs still use energy even when they’re off. “It’s about $100 a year per TV.”

SmartPower provided a list of some easy actions and savings they can result in.

Washing laundry in cold water can save 63 kwh and $9 a month. Having a programmable thermostat and lowering the temperature between 6 and 8 degrees at night and when no one is home will save $16.50 each month. Also, turning off lights, appliances, stereos and computers when not in use will save customers $9 a month.

To find out more information or to register for the challenge, go to www.FindYourFour.com.


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