House Smarts: Midwest Energy in Kansas Tears Down the Cost Barrier to Residential Efficiency
Midwest Energy in Hays, Kansas, has saved almost 1.4 million kilowatt hours per year through the cooperative’s “How$mart” program, an initiative that aims to help members overcome the cost hurdles standing in the way of energy efficiency improvements.
No up-front capital investment is required with How$mart. The co-op provides the member with cash to make energy efficiency upgrades, including new heating and cooling systems and insulation, and a fixed surcharge --less than the energy bill savings -- is added to the member’s bill.
Terms can be up to 15 years for residential programs, 10 years for non-residential. The typical How$mart charge on a monthly bill is $41-$42, with an estimated savings of $49.
As of the end of January, 2012, Midwest Energy has invested $3.9 million in How$mart, leading to improvements at 693 buildings, with another 150-200 pending. Of these projects, 84 were improvements to rental properties.
“Our approach to doing energy efficiency is not to just throw incentives at it,” said Michael Volker, director of regulatory and energy services at the Hays, Kan.-based co-op. “Our whole point is addressing the reasons energy efficiency isn’t happening—that there are barriers. Let’s tear down the barriers and then let the [member] do what they probably should be doing anyway.”
If the member moves, the investment doesn’t. When a property is sold, the buyer must be notified about the repayment due the co-op.