EWEB Resurrects Energy Conservation Assistance

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Roger Gray

Last March, the Eugene Water & Electric Board made an unprecedented and difficult decision to suspend its energy conservation programs. Now, in time for the heating season, I'm happy to report that once again, customers can turn to EWEB for financial assistance to upgrade heating systems and weatherize homes for increased comfort and bill savings.

As always, these popular programs will be open to homeowners, including rental property owners and customers with limited incomes. Small businesses can get help with lighting upgrades. So what has happened since March, and what are we doing to prevent another conservation shutdown in the future?

EWEB has one of the most progressive and innovative energy resource plans in the country. It calls for the utility to offset all projected growth in electricity demand with conservation rather than building new power plants.

We believe this is the right plan for our utility in the long run. Conservation remains the most cost-effective strategy when energy usage is growing. But in our current economic climate, there is no growth. In fact, electricity usage and revenue from sales of surplus energy in the market are down - a lot - and this is not a short-term trend.

EWEB therefore needed to re-calibrate its conservation programs to prevent additional upward pressure on rates. We took this hiatus as an opportunity to make some fundamental changes to ensure that our conservation programs and services can continue within these new market-based financial constraints.

We carefully reviewed all of our program offerings and prioritized those with the highest economic, environmental and social benefits to customers and the utility. All along, we kept in mind our long-standing commitment to customers that we would act as a trusted resource for energy conservation assistance and our desire to remain a leader in program innovation.

We believe our best path forward is one that builds on high-value efficiency programs that also help reduce energy usage when overall consumption is highest in our community. Reducing "peak demand" is a cornerstone strategy to make better use of our existing renewable resources such as hydroelectric, wind and solar, while at the same time avoiding investments in costly new power plants that we would only need during certain times of the day or year.

With this in mind, conservation programs and incentives will now take into account whether a particular measure not only saves energy overall, but also helps reduce consumption during peak times. …