by Jim Long
Member Services Director Todd Munsey of Douglas Electric Cooperative, headquartered at 1981 N.E. Stephens in Roseburg, recently emphasized several of the cooperative's objectives and achievements in serving nearly 10,000 residents and businesses in Douglas County.
First, encourage members to conserve energy. For several decades the cooperative has helped customers consume less electricity, switching to compact fluorescent lights or weatherizing heated structures, for example. Munsey also described a loan program with a local bank at 5 percent interest to invest in efficient heat pumps.
Second, maximize use of renewable energy. About 90 percent of Douglas Electric's wholesale allocation of electricity from Bonneville Power Administration comes from renewable sources, including hydropower, solar, wind and landfill methane. All electricity beyond that allocation is derived from various renewable sources.
Third, enable customers to consider generating electricity. So far, the cooperative has enrolled 10 net metering members, all of whom draw electricity from photo-voltaic panels at their homes or businesses. Under this arrangement, customers who generate more electricity than they consume within a year are paid a flat rate for the extra electricity. Currently, net metering members are paid 7.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
Fourth, reduce operating costs. Automated meter reading started in 1998. It avoids some of the cooperative's labor cost which, in turn, reduces power costs. In addition, the cooperative further enables business customers to lower their operating costs. An example is a business energy audit for local wineries that the cooperative arranges for its members through Bonneville Power. Soon the cooperative will begin installing "smart grid" technology, empowering members to identify more conservation measures in their homes and businesses.
Munsey placed these operational decisions within a larger, policy context. Bonneville Power wholesales electricity to cooperatives at a discount if the savings are invested in pre-specified conservation measures. Growing demands for renewable transportation fuels will likely increase competition for new, renewable sources of energy. In Oregon, consumer-owned utilities such as Douglas Electric, because of their renewable power purchases, produce very few carbon dioxide emissions.
This member-owned supplier of electricity is a member of a cooperative of cooperatives -- Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative. In 1995, PNGC invested in the Coffin Butte Resource Project that taps methane from a landfill near Corvallis to power electric generators. Most recently, PNGC and Ocean Power Technologies partnered to study the potential for wave energy on the Oregon coast. A test buoy is scheduled near Gardiner this fall. Nine additional buoys are planned within another year.
Perhaps symbolic of Douglas Electric's commitment to energy conservation, as I reached out to shake hands goodbye, Munsey handed me a trophy -- a brand-new insulated coffee mug!
For more information, readers may tap into www.douglaselectric.com, phone 541-673-6616 or pick up a copy of the May 2010 edition of Ruralite that includes local features and its annual report.
"Energy Spotlight" is a monthly feature in The News-Review, highlighting what local businesses and organization do to save on energy costs.
The Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, a group that promotes energy efficiency, is canvassing local business owners and organizational leaders about practices that reduce energy costs.
To nominate your firm for an Energy Spotlight, contact Jim Long. To learn more about the coalition, call Stuart Liebowitz at 672-9819.
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