Tuesday, January 25, 2011
'Take Charge' challenges Iolans to use less
A group of Iolans is trying to come up with ways that the city as a whole can reduce its energy footprint, and win Iola $100,000 in the process.
Iola is one of five Southeast Kansas communities vying for the pot in the 2011 “Take Charge Challenge.”
The contest, sponsored by Kansas Department of Energy, runs through Sep. 30.
Other towns in the running are Fort Scott, Parsons, Pittsburg and Chanute.
Already the group has met three times, but plans are to scale back to monthly meetings.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be hard at work between times, though.
From ideas to practical plots, members Craig Neuenswander, Dan Willis, Gary Hoffmeier, Jana Taylor, Jeff Bauer, Judy Brigham, Rebecca Nilges, Roxanne Hutton, Scott Shreve, Scott Stanley, Jeff Kluever, Holly Slawkowski and Jody Grover are working to devise easy-to-do tasks that reward public participation through energy — and therefore monetary — savings.
One such example is a rebate available for those who upgrade home appliances to Energy Star models. Refrigerators, heat pumps, water heaters — all may be eligible for cash rebates provided by the Kansas Power Pool. Contact Brigham at 365-4900 for more details.
Another incentive comes in the form of an energy audit, provided by the city’s energy consultant, Energy Management Group of Topeka. EMG will provide a full efficiency audit tackling air leakage, heating system efficiency, home insulation, appliance energy use and more. The audit runs $100 — but the money doesn’t need to come out-of-pocket, though. If a utility customer or homeowner wishes to go ahead with recommended suggestions, the $100 fee is rolled into a no interest loan provided by the Kansas Department of Energy through federal stimulus dollars made available through President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Loan payments are then tacked onto the customer’s utility bill for the next 15 years.
Lest the thought of increased debt scare someone away from possible savings, payments are calculated to match the energy cost savings wrought by the efficiency upgrades. For example, if a person replaces their heating system to the tune of a $50 a month reduction in their heating bill, the loan payment is calculated as $50, added to the monthly utility bill. Net result is payments stay static, while the home is warmer and uses less energy.
The program is also open to renters, with their landlords permission. In the case of tenants, loan fees are attached to the apartment’s meter, so that, should an occupant move, the fees roll over to the next occupant. Hoffmeier, who runs Hoffmeier Electric, noted landlords should be interested regardless because a more energy efficient apartment would be easier to rent out.
Small businesses are also eligible to participate in the program, said Shreve, who works for EMG. Contact him at 785-234-9364, or email@example.com for more information or to schedule an audit.
PART OF the Take Charge Challenge involves the city planning or participating in three separate events between now and September, team members learned Wednesday night.
The first big push by the group to enroll people in the challenge and reduce the city’s electric use will be by giving away 5,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs during the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce Business EXPO Jan. 28 and 29 at the Recreation Community Building in Riverside Park.
Anyone living in the 66749 zip code is welcome to bring in regular incandescent bulbs to exchange for the CFLs. Up to five bulbs per person may be exchanged.
Monetary savings from the switch amount to $70 per year, per person, Take Challenge team members were told.
Over the life of the bulbs, calculated to be 10 years, energy savings equal $700 per person.
For Iola as a whole, the savings equate to $70,000 per year, or $700,000 over the next decade. That’s money that can stay in the pockets of local people.
For Iola to get credit for the upgrades, citizens must sign up at www.takechargekansas.org or at the business EXPO.
The more people who participate, the further along the line Iola stands to beating its neighbors to the money.
There is no plan as yet for the $100,000, other than it will go toward an energy-related project that will benefit the city as a whole.
As Kluever noted, “Let’s get it before we spend it.”
The next activity should take place in March or April according to the larger Take Challenge program. Iola’s may coordinate with Earth Hour in March or Earth Day in April. The third event should be in June or July, or possibly during the Allen County Fair.
There is certainly room in the group for more minds and more ideas, Brigham noted.
Anyone interested can sign up for e-mail announcements through firstname.lastname@example.org and can join the working group by calling City Clerk Roxanne Hutton at 365-4900.
The next Take Charge Challenge meeting is 4-6 p.m. Feb. 9 in the New Community Building at Riverside Park. All are welcome.