“Together We Save” Empowers Co-op Members To Reduce Energy Bills
There’s a lot of uncertainty regarding the direction Congress will take in climate change legislation. One thing is certain, though, electric bills are going up.
Being diligent about helping members reduce their energy use has never been just lip service to Touchstone Energy electric cooperatives across the country. And now they have even more tools at their fingertips with the “Together We Save” program that was unveiled on August 27.
The core of the campaign is the Together We Save Web site that demonstrates how taking simple energy-saving steps can lead to real dollar savings. Among other tools, a virtual home tour takes visitors through each room of a home and shows how their actions can save money. The site’s TV Web portal provides short videos on energy efficiency-themed topics. In addition, site visitors will find nine animated, interactive applications. Each one focuses on a different energy, and money-saving, action that, once completed, outputs an actual savings calculation.
Illinois cooperative staff members are very pleased with the program. “What I like best about this program is that it’s so easy for our members. It doesn’t cost them anything to log on to togetherwesave.com and find out how they can start saving money immediately. I think they may be surprised to learn that they can achieve big savings with some small changes,” says Brenda Rothert, director of communications and member services at Spoon River Electric Cooperative in Canton.
Kevin Bernson, VP of media and public relations at Shelby Electric Cooperative in Shelbyville, says, “We often get questions from members who need help with reducing their energy usage. These Web resources help our members better understand how they’re using energy and give them more control in managing their energy costs.”
For more information about the new program, visit www.TogetherWeSave.com or contact your local Touchstone Energy cooperative.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Decline in 2008
Despite a 1.1 percent increase in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels declined by 2.8 percent in 2008, according to preliminary estimates by DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The record decline was caused in part by a 5.2 percent decrease in emissions from transportation. Sky-high fuel prices in the first part of the year, followed by economic woes in the fourth quarter, contributed to a record-breaking decline in vehicle miles traveled in 2008.
Carbon dioxide emissions from industries also fell by 3.2 percent, following a five-year trend of falling industrial emissions.
While lower energy use in the transportation and industrial sectors partly contributed to the drop in carbon dioxide emissions, that’s not the full story. The EIA notes that U.S. energy demand fell by 2.2 percent in 2008, which is less than the drop in carbon dioxide emissions. That means that some of the energy shifted to a source that produces lower carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the electric power sector, which generates 41 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, decreased its power generation by 1 percent in 2008, but decreased its carbon dioxide emissions by 2.1 percent. In other words, the power sector decreased its emissions intensity by 1.1 percent in 2008.
DOE Awards $8 Billion for Advanced Vehicle Technologies
DOE announced $8 billion in conditional loan agreements in June for Ford Motor Company; Nissan North America, Inc. and Tesla Motors, Inc. to fund the development of advanced vehicle technologies. The loan commitments include a $5.9 billion loan to Ford for upgrading factories in five states to produce 13 more fuel-efficient models, a $1.6 billion loan to Nissan to build advanced electric vehicles and advanced batteries, and a $465 million loan to Tesla Motors to manufacture its new electric sedan. These are the first conditional loans released under DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program, which is using an open, competitive process to provide about $25 billion in loans to companies that produce cars or vehicle components in the United States. To qualify, companies must propose projects that increase fuel economy to at least 25 percent above 2005 fuel economy levels.
Co-op Members Send Thousands of Postcards to Senators
In early September, Illinois electric co-ops asked their members to get involved in the political process and ask Senators Burris and Durbin to fight for climate change legislation that is fair, affordable and achievable. The postcard campaign was part of a national effort asking electric co-op members from across the country to contact their senators.
The signed postcards were hand delivered by a small delegation of Illinois co-op leaders to each Senator’s office later in the month. Illinois co-op members responded in overwhelming numbers. Steve Uram, Legislative Affairs Advisor for the National Association of Electric Cooperatives, said, “So far, the Illinoisan members account for 48, 218 of the 66,762 postcards we have received. Your members are amazing!”
Duane Noland, President/CEO for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives helped hand deliver the postcards. He said, “As a former state senator I know that our leaders pay attention to the folks back home. You can make a difference, but only if you participate in the debate. It is easy to become disenchanted with the political process, but when Congress is debating issues like health care or energy it is critical that we get off the sidelines and let them know what we think. I’m proud of our members for answering the call to action.”
A Wall of Energy Savings Unveiled at Farm Progress Show
Tens of thousands of attendees visited the Touchstone Energy booth at the Farm Progress Show, which ran September 1-3 in Decatur. A new energy efficiency wall display developed by Prairie Power, Inc., was unveiled at the booth. Bob Dickey, Manager of Marketing and Economic Development for Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative (center) and Dennis Ray, Marketing Services Specialist for Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative, were two of the co-op energy advisors on hand to provide energy efficiency construction tips. The display is a complete wall system that shows all the areas where you need to seal out energy leaks, says Dickey. The display will be used at other events across the state to help co-op members learn how to tighten up their home and save.
Warning – Don’t Fall for Companies Calling Themselves a Co-op
Cooperatives are not-for-profit businesses that are owned by the member/consumers who use their services and products. Occasionally, a for-profit business will misrepresent their business as a cooperative, taking advantage of the good name and reputation of cooperative businesses.
We received a complaint from a member of Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative in Winchester who had been harassed by an insurance company called Reserve National Insurance. The high-pressure sales person never said Reserve National Insurance; he simply told the member that he had five questions from the rural electric cooperative.
This insurance company occasionally also sends out mailings to co-op members. The return address says “A National Association of Rural Co-operative Members.” A survey and return envelope are included. The survey says “Rural Co-operative Members Questionnaire.” We would recommend that you not respond to this survey. If you do you are almost guaranteed to get a high-pressure sales call.
Again, your local electric cooperative, the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, and this magazine are not affiliated in any way with this insurance company. We also do not appreciate the misrepresentations they make that damage our reputation and relationship with our members. If you receive a call from this company or are being harassed by other phone solicitors we suggest you register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. For more information go to www.donotcall.gov. If a phone solicitor still calls, there are severe penalties that can be enforced.
Congressman Shimkus Calls for an All-of-the-Above Approach to Energy
During his Ag Advisory Council meeting on August 18, Congressman John Shimkus (R, Illinois-19) talked about energy issues with Joyce and Gary Morrison of Fieldon. They are members of MJM Electric Cooperative where Gary serves as a director. Shimkus said, “Some of my friends in Congress want to add to the cost of energy with an energy tax disguised as cap-and-trade. Instead of adding to your heating, cooling, and gasoline bills, I want our nation to increase production of American energy, such as clean coal, nuclear, wind, solar, renewables, and offshore oil and gas. This is an all-of-the-above energy approach instead of an energy tax.”
Funding Increased for Innovative Rural Energy Program
In the detailed budget proposal released in May, the Obama Administration more than doubled funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides grants and loan guarantees for farmers and rural small businesses to develop renewable energy and invest in energy efficiency.
“To help our economy recover, we need to create new jobs and income in rural America. To safeguard our energy independence and our children’s future, we need to create homegrown, clean energy,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “The REAP program does both. This commitment to doubling REAP’s funding shows that rural America has a key role to play in this administration’s plans for economic recovery.”
By providing grants that cover up to 25 percent of the cost of clean energy projects as well as loan guarantees and technical assistance, REAP spurs new investment in rural America, creates jobs, and fuels a cleaner, more secure energy future for our nation.
For more information, visit www.farmenergy.org