As uncertainty in pricing and power supply dominate the energy landscape, OPALCO is building on its strong foundation of energy efficiency and conservation programs to activate the Co-op community towards greater action and reward. The 2014 budget has allocated $100,000 in matching grant funds which will be awarded to local nonprofit organizations that can expand our education and outreach efforts – and funding potential – in the areas of energy efficiency and conservation and to incentivize energy saving building retrofits.
Energy efficiency and conservation activities and gains are the key to managing our co-op energy load and mitigating the rising cost of power. Northwest Power and Conservation Council states “Nearly 60% of the region’s new demand for electricity over the next five years, and 85% over the next 20 years, could be met with energy efficiency.”
“During the last rate period (FY 2012-13), OPALCO’s energy efficiency and conservation programs, funded by BPA, achieved more than 2.7 million kWh in energy savings—which far outpaced our growth in energy demand,” reported General Manager Randy J. Cornelius. “Members received a record-setting $685,000 in rebates. That is a significant impact and I’m proud of our staff and members–but we can and should do more.”
This fall, a group of members already engaged in energy efficiency and conservation activities began to meet and discuss what could be accomplished while working together under OPALCO’s Sustainable Energy Grants Program. A roundtable of interested nonprofits met with OPALCO leadership in December to discuss projects and the potential for cooperation between the groups to make best use of resources and accelerate progress toward a more sustainable energy future.
The participating groups include Island Stewards, San Juan Islands Conservation District, Solar Gardens and the Opportunity Council. Members of Islands Energy Coalition and Gray Cope, who are considering participation, were also in attendance. Eligible organizations must have a board that includes representation from all ferry served islands.
Cornelius welcomed the groups to the table, thanked them for their commitment to sustainable energy and made it clear that this work takes a top priority at OPALCO: “This work is critical to our mutual success and a healthy future for our island communities. OPALCO is committed to working side by side with you on creative solutions for energy efficiency and conservation. This is our core business – providing reliable, affordable power to our members. Anything we can do together to turn the dial up and accelerate our progress in these areas is of great community service and much appreciated.”
“We’re all in this together,” said Adrienne Reed of Island Stewards. “It’s exciting to imagine what we can accomplish working in collaboration – with each other and with OPALCO.”
Stay tuned for more information as the work of these cooperating nonprofit organizations takes shape.
And, stay tuned for information on OPALCO’s Community Solar Initiative. Although not included in the matching grants program, OPALCO has committed sites on three islands for community solar projects. Qualified nonprofits will install, operate and maintain solar arrays, and market to OPALCO members who want solar power, but can’t or don’t want to make the investment themselves.
OPALCO Board directives and policies are available online at www.opalco.com – under the About/Board of Directors menu and also Members/Member Service Policies. Co-op members are welcome to attend board meetings, which are scheduled for the third Thursday of each month. Board agendas and packets are published a week in advance of each meeting.