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Conservation Pays Off for PUD

by Kathy Ursprung
The Dalles Chronicle, November 27, 2009

Northern Wasco County PUD is spending money to save money -- and the money they're saving could be yours.

Over the past year, the PUD helped its customers reduce their lighting costs, save water in the shower (hot water equals electricity use), buy energy-efficient appliances and water heaters, and weatherize their homes through energy conservation programs administered by Steve Holmes.

Holmes reported to the PUD board Tuesday night about the results of Fiscal Year 2009's conservation program.

Conservation measures taken by customers over the past year are estimated to save around 1.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity, Holmes told the board.

"That's not just this year," Holmes said. "They should save that every year." Not only is that good news for PUD customers wanting to save money on their power bills, it's also good news for the PUD, which will have a million more kilowatt hours of available power each year that they didn't have before.

Even though the PUD shells out money every year for conservation, the board recognizes it as a good investment: Conservation is the least expensive way of stretching power resources. Power saved through conservation means less money spent in the costly development of new power production.

"The potential is significant," said Dwight Langer, PUD general manager, "and we think that conservation and energy efficiency is our lowest cost resource." Saving electricity through conservation and energy efficiency means the PUD has to purchase that much less costly Tier 2 energy from Bonneville Power Administration.

"Before we go out and buy more expensive resources, we want to make sure we're capturing as much conservation and energy efficiency as we can."

A study done earlier this year on conservation potential within the PUD district suggested the PUD has the potential to save 3.78 average megawatts -- or 33 million kilowatt hours of electricity -- over the course of 10 years and 7.56 average megawatts -- or more than 66 million kilowatt hours of energy over 20 years.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs were the most popular item the PUD provided. A total of 9,891 more bulbs are out in the community saving money after this year's investment of $14,295 in incentives.

That's 189 percent of the PUD's budget for the bulbs this year.

In this case, going over budget is a good thing under a three-year agreement the PUD has with Bonneville. The PUD is making up for fewer conservation measures in previous years.

Bonneville reimburses the PUD for much of its conservation effort.

In Fiscal Year 2009, the PUD earned credits totaling $419,021.77, paying $249,835 in incentives and $184,804 in renewable energy credits. The renewables figure is higher than normal this year, because the PUD invested $100,000 in research into two forms of potential renewable energy: $50,000 for offshore energy wave technology and $50,000 for hydrogen hub technology.

The remaining $84,804 was the premium on the PUD's purchase of one megawatt of wind energy from Bonneville.

The wind energy is subsidized in part by the credits and in part by PUD's Pure Power Renewable Energy program. Under Pure Power, PUD customers can subsidize blocks of wind power through monthly block contributions.

At present, 257 blocks are subscribed and new signups have dwindled, Holmes said.

PUD Director Clay Smith asked whether there is any way to boost purchase of the green power blocks.

"If we really pumped up our advertising, we'd probably get a few folks," Holmes said, "but it gets to the point where we're preaching to the choir.

Smith used his board meeting pulpit to urge more people to support the green power.

"That would be a good thing, if we had more people buying green power," Smith said.

By the numbers:
9,891 CF lightbulbs
2,199 low-flow showerheads
443 energy-efficient appliances
121 water heaters
68 weatherization jobs
42 heat pumps
8 commercial lighting upgrades
Total kilowatt hours saved per year: 1,099,679

Kathy Ursprung
Conservation Pays Off for PUD
The Dalles Chronicle, November 27, 2009

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