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IDEA SHARING: CREA EnergyWise Group Designed to Bring EE Options to Co-op Members

April 7, 2015

BY KENT SINGER, CREA Executive Director

The sixth cooperative principle, under which all of Colorado’s electric co-ops operate, is “cooperation among cooperatives.” You see, cooperatives, electric and otherwise, serve their members most effectively by working together.

That’s what the Colorado Rural Electric Association’s member coops are doing under the EnergyWise banner as they work to bring more and better energy efficiency programs to their member-owners. Energy efficiency is nothing new for electric co-ops, which have always promoted ways to help you save money on your power bill. As not-for-profit utilities, electric co-ops are not big corporations motivated by making money for investors, but locally-owned utilities dedicated to providing reliable electricity at an affordable price.

As part of this effort, we at CREA created the EnergyWise Project a couple of years ago. Through this initiative, we are encouraging and facilitating energy efficiency efforts in electric co-op service territory, and we are helping our co-ops publicize information on programs they offer their members and ways their members can save energy and money. Every electric co-op in the state promotes energy efficiency and other cost-saving measures. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize what kind of rebates are offered and the types of projects the co-ops are involved in. We probably don’t do enough to tell the world about our energy efficiency work, so we are using the EnergyWise banner to brand these efforts and get the word out.

Our first substantive project under the EnergyWise label last spring involved a partnership between CREA, four of our members and the Colorado Energy Office. As a result of this partnership, eight dairy farms on Colorado’s eastern plains received energy-saving lighting and other equipment that resulted in huge savings on their electric bills. The four co-op participants (Morgan County Rural Electric Association, United Power, Highline Electric Association and Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association) worked with their memberowners to audit their energy usage and implement cost-saving measures. Today, those dairy operators are benefitting from lower monthly electricity bills due to the funds provided by CEO and the work of their local electric co-op.

To follow up on that project, we recently hosted the first meeting of the EnergyWise Advisory Council, a meeting of co-op employees who have expertise in energy efficiency and management. At the kickoff meeting, we brought in representatives from CEO, Colorado State University Extension, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Western Area Power Administration, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association to talk about various efforts by these groups to promote energy efficiency in rural Colorado. We spent a full day discussing potential partnerships between the co-ops and these organizations and our collective ongoing efforts to help co-op member-owners reduce their power bills.

The purpose of the EnergyWise Advisory Council is to create a forum where electric co-op energy efficiency experts can come together a couple of times a year to discuss their individual programs and to also hear about the latest developments in the energy efficiency field. Colorado has many governmental, nonprofit and private sector organizations and companies that are nationally and internationally recognized as leaders in energy efficiency, and the EnergyWise council can draw on that expertise from time to time.

One of CREA’s functions as a trade organization is to provide opportunities for the employees of our member co-ops to get together to exchange information with their peers. We facilitate meetings of co-op CEOs, accountants, human resources professionals, attorneys, member services employees, operations managers, mechanics and now energy efficiency specialists. We look forward to supporting this newest peer group and believe that it will continue to find ways to help co-op member-owners manage their electricity usage wisely.

After all, that’s the co-op way.

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