Is there a way to help both the global environment and the economy in one tidy package? According to Tim Horan, president of National Grid, energy efficiency is not only something that can save the environment; it can save consumers money and even create jobs.
Last Tuesday, National Grid hosted the first Rhode Island Energy Efficiency Forum at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick. More than 150 National Grid representatives, business owners, municipal officials and residential developers came together to discuss energy efficiency programs in the state and how to improve upon them.
“It was a pretty unique event,” said Horan.
The goal was to get feedback on energy efficiency programs and services while educating attendees on initiatives that could be beneficial to their respective focus areas.
National Grid offers 22 commercial and 21 residential services to customers to retrofit existing systems, provide rebates for equipment or customize buildings and homes to be efficient.
Horan said services range from audits of homes to fully engineering specialty equipment for businesses. To make homes more efficient, Horan said people can do “something as prescriptive as changing all the light bulbs” to energy efficient ones. According to National Grid’s website, swapping out five lights with Energy Star light bulbs can save 62 kwh, or $9, per month.
Turning off lights and appliances, washing clothes in cold water, repairing leaky faucets, unplugging laptop and cell phone chargers and cleaning the lint filter on electric dryers are all ways to save money each month. For natural gas customers, National Grid recommends replacing inefficient furnaces, insulating windows, lowering water heater settings to 120 degrees and choosing energy efficient hot water tanks.
Businesses, said Horan, can go as far as swapping out old, inefficient machinery for something more eco-friendly.
Regardless the magnitude of the change, the result is usually the same: a lower electrical bill.
“We’re always looking for ways to help customers with bills,” he said.
Horan said becoming more energy efficient not only saves money, but also helps the environment. In addition to helping individual consumers, it also reduces total emissions from power plants.
“It makes a lot of sense,” he said.
Horan said energy efficiency can also be linked to job creation. He explained that an existing building that undergoes retrofitting provides jobs for contractors and even the suppliers of materials.
To date, there have been 33,000 residential customers and 1,030 commercial and industrial customers involved in the energy efficiency programs.
The overall Rhode Island energy savings amount to 1.4 million lifetime MWh (mega watt hours), which is equivalent to taking 190,000 cars off the road for one year. For natural gas users, it’s the equivalent of 3.6 million lifetime MMBtu (million metric British thermal units), which is like taking 35,000 cars off the road for one year.
National Grid says electric and gas programs will save Rhode Island customers $174 million over the next 13 years in reduced fuel and distribution costs.
National Grid’s budget for delivering energy efficiency programs to Rhode Island this year was $61 million for electric customers and $13.6 million for gas. According to a National Grid spokesperson, the funding is approved annually by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission in order to meet the state’s energy savings goals for energy efficiency. The state mandates energy efficiency through law, and a governor-appointed council sets goals for National Grid to achieve every three years.
Horan said the biggest takeaway from the forum is that National Grid needs to spread the word about their programs, since many customers are still unaware of services available. Horan said National Grid’s website has information, as well as the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council’s site.
Horan said National Grid has been involved in energy efficiency programs for more than 20 years, and said conferences like last week’s help to reach out to more people and get more input. In the past, they have held smaller gatherings, but nothing on this scale.
“We appreciated everyone’s time,” said Horan, who hopes National Grid will continue to develop and expand upon their energy efficiency services.
For more information on National Grid’s programs, visit www.nationalgridus.com/EnergyEfficiencyServices.