Group calls for energy efficiency programs by small utilities

A Colorado consumer advocacy group is calling on rural electric associations and public power districts to meet their state-regulated counterparts in providing energy-efficiency programs to their customers, noting thousands of Coloradans are missing out on those cost savings.

The Colorado Public Interest Research Group appeared in Grand Junction on Tuesday as part of a statewide tour to point out what can be stark discrepancies in utilities’ programs. CoPIRG energy associate Keelin Kelly and Grand Junction City Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein illustrated that fact by standing near the intersection of 29 and Patterson roads, noting that Xcel Energy customers south of Patterson can take advantage of hundreds of dollars in energy-efficiency rebates while Grand Valley Power customers on the north side of Patterson have far fewer options.

“We just think it’s absurd that just depending on what side of the street you live on determines access to energy savings programs,” Kelly said.

A report recently released by CoPIRG notes that average electricity prices in Colorado increased 61 percent between 2000 and 2010 and calls on all electric utility companies in the state to reduce consumer energy demand by 10 percent by 2020. That would fall in line with Xcel’s commitment to cut energy demand by 11.5 percent in that same time frame.

The report notes that while Xcel makes available to customers a host of rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances and gives them cash for audits, Grand Valley Power’s programs are limited to performing home and commercial energy audits for their members for free.

While acknowledging it’s easier to push through energy-efficiency programs with companies like Xcel because they’re regulated by the government, Kelly noted that consumers can still influence rural electric associations and municipal utilities by running for the boards that manage them or approaching the town boards and city councils that oversee them. More than a third of the state’s residents are customers of rural electric associations and municipal utilities, she said.

Kelly said some utility companies may be reluctant to introduce rebate programs because of the up-front cost involved, but she said the long-term savings realized by not having to purchase more power in the future will compensate for that investment.

Boeschenstein said the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, which offers its customers a number of rebates, would be a good model for Grand Valley Power to follow. But he said customers have to demand that kind of service in order for cooperatives to implement it.

Attempts to reach Grand Valley Power spokesman Bill Byers for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.


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