HG: SustainAbility Column September 27, 2008

With demand for energy expected to soar, Xcel Energy is getting ahead of the curve by promoting energy conservation and efficiency.

The latest “Energy Update” from Xcel proclaimed, “The cheapest and cleanest kilowatt is the one that’s not produced.”

Xcel is responsible for power generation, transmission and distribution to its customers. Teaching consumers to conserve energy and use it efficiently means the company can meet energy demands while building fewer power plants.

Area Manager Fred Eggleston is the voice of Xcel Energy in the Grand Junction area. An engineer by trade, he patiently explained the big picture.

Changing times are reflected in the evolving company mission. Five years ago, Xcel’s mission statement focused on providing “least cost power” with “highest reliability.”

According to Eggleston, the current emphasis is on environment, reliability and lowest cost, in that order.

To understand the current focus, it is necessary to go back to the 2004 elections, when Colorado voters passed Amendment 37. This required large utilities to supply an increasing percentage of power from renewable sources, 10 percent by 2015.

Eggleston said Xcel opposed the wording of the measure and, after it passed, it took two years of negotiations to create a working program.

In March 2007, House Bill 1281 became law, setting a new Renewable Energy Standard, expanding the commitment to produce 20 percent of electricity with renewables by 2020.

Eggleston explained Xcel was instrumental in pushing for “20 by 2020” and is confident his company will meet the 20 percent renewable goal prior to 2020.

The real challenge will be in the details. “We need to learn how to manage a system with 20 percent renewables,” he said.

Demand side management (DSM) is industry lingo for customer incentives and rebates that bring savings to customers while reducing the energy load.

Xcel has completed three years of successful DSM programs, including Solar Rewards, which gives incentives for customers to buy and install solar panels.

Another popular program is Saver’s Switch. This involves an annual credit for allowing an energy-saving device to be installed near your central air conditioner.

In the past 12 months alone, 410 residential customers in the Grand Valley participated in at least one Xcel DSM program. An additional 60 businesses took advantage of the programs.

Eggleston is excited about what will happen after the first of the year. In 2009, the company is rolling out a greatly expanded menu of programs, including incentives and rebates for those of us who only purchase natural gas from Xcel.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a favorite efficiency tool for Eggleston. High-efficiency swamp coolers, insulation and good windows are also high on his personal list of efficiency tips.

Eggleston found a “fun experimental tool,” a laser thermometer, at Harbor Freight Tools, 3210 I-70 Business Loop, for under $20. This device allows you to look for hot and cold spots around your home.

Check out xcelenergy.com. It’s worth the time to explore Xcel Energy’s Web site, and you can save some money in the process.

This site contains a treasure trove of information and interesting features.

Here are some pointers to streamline the experience:

•  When you pull up the site for the first time, you need to select “Colorado” from the pull down menu on the far left.

•  By pulling down the “Residential” menu you can find out about Solar Rewards under the “Renewable Energy” heading.
“Save Energy & Money” will get you to a home energy analyzer, energy calculators and a myriad of energy-saving tips and videos.
“Programs & Resources” will fill you in on incentives and rebates. Xcel Area Manager Fred Eggleston said this section will grow early in 2009.

•  Teachers and homeschoolers, don’t miss the learning tools.
Pull down the “Company” menu and select “Community.” This will bring up a page where you can select “Energy Classroom.” In the classroom, you can take a virtual power plant tour and go to “Clean Energy Planet.”
Eggleston said teachers get hooked on this online resource packed with experiments, videos and interactive games and puzzles.

•  I have a personal weakness for the Bird Cams.

On the home page, look at the far left under “Quicktools” and the first option is “Bird Cam.”
It’s too late in the year for any action now, but you can review the last crop of babies. Be sure to bookmark this site so you can follow the adventures of a variety of winged creatures.

Owl Cam is my favorite and owls lay eggs in February.

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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