Earlier this year, the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives discovered that energy efficiency investments made by Iowa co-op members in 2007 will save enough electricity to power 34,000 homes. Just as important, the IAEC also discovered which investments provide the best payback – for both member-consumers and the cooperatives.
As the nation looks to slowing demand growth as a critical component of energy policy, progress has been hampered by a scarcity of sound data. The lack of data is particularly acute in the residential sector.
If a lack of data is part of the problem, then the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives is helping provide the solution. The association is currently conducting a statewide assessment of energy efficiency potential and will use the detailed information to develop even more effective energy-efficiency programs.
According to Regi Goodale, director of regulatory affairs for the Iowa statewide, efficient lighting and geothermal systems appear to offer the best payback on investment.
The $11 million that Iowa co-ops invested in energy-efficiency programs last year will post a $30.3 million return in energy savings.
Data from the Iowa statewide show, for example, that the 1,731 member-consumer-owners who took advantage of incentives to purchase geothermal and air source heat pumps will save a total of $28,970,650 over the life of those systems; the cooperatives will save $20,454,610.
Robust participation by member-consumer-owners led to a 25-percent increase in energy-efficiency program investment by cooperatives over planned investment and led to a 36 percent increase in electricity savings.
The data is available in a report filed by the Iowa statewide with state regulators, which gathers data for the electric cooperatives that provide power in of the state’s 99 counties to approximately 650,000 Iowans.
Having this data will be invaluable in efforts by co-ops to inform member-consumer-owners about energy efficiency. Communication, according to Goodale, is key to the success of energy efficiency programs.
The data also will help energy providers in future planning. For example, the 2007 data shows that the more than 23,000 consumer-members who participated in the efficient lighting programs achieved an annual savings of 1,236,384 kilowatt-hours..
The Iowa statewide first began reporting the results of energy efficiency programs in 1992. This year, the association hired a third-party to examine its assumptions and bring the Iowa cooperative reporting methods in line with more widely-used standards. As a result, the association has more useful data to measure the effectiveness of energy efficiency rebates and other programs.
Marion Denger, president of the Iowa statewide, said the co-ops “are continuously evaluating their energy-efficiency programs and looking for ways to make them more effective and easy for our consumers to use.”