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Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009 03:47 pm

Fed funds to power efficiency efforts in Springfield

CWLP prepares three programs to save energy

Federal stimulus money coming soon to Springfield could help the city save 7.5 megawatts of energy per year.

Earlier this month, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) announced more than $1.2 million in grant money for Springfield under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That money is part of $354 million the federal government has set aside to promote energy efficiency and conservation — $52 million of which is coming to Illinois.

Bill Mills, energy services manager at City Water, Light and Power, said the city is preparing three programs, using Springfield’s grant, to reduce power usage at home and at work.

Lighting and air conditioning are the two biggest electricity loads on any power plant, Mills said, so it’s only natural that the grant money would be used to address those areas. The first program will provide rebates to Springfield businesses that replace inefficient lighting fixtures. Funded with $475,000 from the grant, that program will be rolled out in October or November, Mills said, adding that the rebate amount has yet to be finalized. That program is expected to save 3.6 megawatts of energy annually at about 75 Springfield businesses. (In 2008, CWLP generated more than 1.7 million megawatts.)

CWLP plans to start a second program in November to replace inefficient air conditioning units in Springfield homes. “Roughly five out of six CWLP customers have a central air conditioner,” Mills said. “The average performance is low, so what we want to do is take them to a high-efficiency air conditioner.”

About $250,000 is dedicated to that program, which will provide rebates of about $300 on 600 high efficiency units around Springfield, Mills said.

“As you get into the very high efficiency units, the rebate will be more, because the value of those units is higher,” Mills said, adding that the program is expected to reduce power demands by about 1.4 megawatts per year. He said the program will have the same criteria for the federal tax rebate for replacing inefficient central air units, and customers will be shown how to apply for that rebate as well.

In January 2010, CWLP will use the remaining $500,000 in grant money to start a third program that helps Springfield businesses pay to have their commercial buildings “commissioned”, or evaluated for efficiency, for the first time.

“A commissioning…is much like getting a tune-up for your car,” Mills said. “Over time, any machine, be it a vehicle or a building… starts to get out of tune. The building starts to run at less than optimal performance, like a vehicle wasting gas because you don’t change the spark plugs.” The program will pay 10 cents per square foot of evaluated area, plus an undetermined percentage of the first $25,000 for work done based on the evaluation, according to Mills.

That program will likely affect 30 to 40 large area businesses, he said.

Each of the three programs will likely last two years. Mills said CWLP would probably continue the programs in a reduced capacity once the grant money runs out.

Mills said the grant money was focused on businesses because CWLP already has “a very, very strong portfolio of residential energy efficiency programs.”

“We really have not addressed the commercial market well or consistently,” Mills said. “Our commercial customers make up just over 10 percent of our customer base, and yet they consume, give or take, about 60 percent of our energy. So to get a lot of efficiency, we need to start to build a good, strong commercial portfolio.”

CWLP has not received the funds yet, but Mills expects that to happen “any day now.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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