OPALCO Invests in Energy Savings to Keep Member Costs Down

Amy Saxe of OPALCO's Energy Services program presents a check to Linda Lyshall for the San Juan Islands Conservation District. Also pictured: Jay Kimball, consultant, and Randy J. Cornelius, General Manager of OPALCO.

Amy Saxe of OPALCO’s Energy Services program presents a check to Linda Lyshall for the San Juan Islands Conservation District. Also pictured: Jay Kimball, consultant, and Randy J. Cornelius, General Manager of OPALCO.

OPALCO recently announced a 6% rate increase beginning in March. What can we do to keep member costs down? Energy efficiency and conservation activities and gains are key tools for minimizing kWh usage and helping members to control their utility bills. Every little bit helps: the 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.”

To expand our reach, OPALCO has awarded a matching grant to the San Juan Islands Conservation District for their leadership in promoting energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy programs. The Conservation District will partner with local non-profits to achieve a range of projects beyond OPALCO’s current offerings to: retrofit San Juan County homes for greater energy efficiency, pilot community solar projects and develop additional education and outreach efforts.

The Conservation District will serve as an umbrella organization to coordinate the efforts of other nonprofits including the Islands Energy Coalition, Island Stewards and the Opportunity Council. Collectively, they have already secured matching funds for the $150,000 awarded by OPALCO.

“We are excited to work with OPALCO on this initiative,” said Linda Lyshall, District Manager, San Juan Islands Conservation District. “Through our partnership, we intend to maximize efficiency and conservation gains to slow increases on utility bills, reduce the carbon footprint of the county and serve as a model for other small, rural communities in Washington and elsewhere. This project fits well with the Conservation District’s long-term goals to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout San Juan County.”

OPALCO’s Energy Services department has executed a successful Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) rebate program to date, issuing a total of $685,328 in rebates to members and reporting kWh savings of 2,714,894 during the period 2012-2013. Beyond the incentives, these efficiency gains equate to kWh savings far into the future as the measures implemented improve our housing stock.

“If this collaborative effort demonstrates success by matching─or better─the kWh savings of the last rate period (above),” said Randy J. Cornelius, General Manager, “BPA has assured us a zero load growth forecast on our 2015-2016 rate case – which would remove the prospect of Tier II (market rate) power purchases for that period. We have great expectations for what we can achieve by working together. The whole co-op membership benefits as our homes become more efficient and our habits shift with greater awareness and education.”

Projects already underway include home energy retrofits and subsidized low-income weatherization, in partnership with the Opportunity Council. Upcoming events and activities include:

  • Energy Fairs on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan islands in May and June. Includes Solar Home Tours, efficiency and conservation workshops, prizes and more!
  • Community Solar pilot launching this spring
  • Youth Corps community energy efficiency project this summer

For more information about these projects, or to find out how you can participate, call the Conservation District office at 378-6621 or visit www.sanjuanislandscd.org.

For the latest information about OPALCO, sign up for our email newsletter and follow us on Facebook (Orcas Power & Light Cooperative) and Twitter (@orcaspower). OPALCO is our member-owned cooperative, powering more than 11,000 members on 20 islands in San Juan County since 1937.