Iowa Towns Get Push on Energy Efficiency from State Program

Midwest Energy News Wrote:

All told, the 19 communities already have cut their annual electricity use by about 2.7 million kilowatt hours, and their gas usage by 39,000 therms.

Derek Lord says it was apparent to officials in Ankeny, Iowa, that the city could be much more efficient in its use of energy.

What they needed was a nudge.

That nudge came a couple years ago in the form of a grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The authority paid for an energy consultant to help 19 Iowa communities identify the efficiency upgrades that would make a difference in energy use while also making financial sense.

The consultants, along with energy teams in the 19 communities, have compiled a list of 919 projects they estimate will save about $1.4 million annually in energy costs, and will cut electricity use by 18 million kilowatt hours and natural gas demand by 345,000 therms each year.

Lord, Ankeny’s economic development director, said the access to an energy consultant “pushed us to do things we knew needed to do, but never made time to do. Having the energy adviser pushed us to evaluate and prioritize energy-efficiency improvements for the city.”

Ankeny developed a list of 41 projects that could save about 865,000 kilowatt hours and 3,300 therms yearly. So far, the city has completed three projects, and as a result has cut its yearly electricity use by about 5,800 kilowatt hours.

“It really made you think about how much energy is being wasted,” he said.

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        All told, the 19 communities already have cut their annual electricity use by about 2.7 million kilowatt hours, and their gas usage by 39,000 therms. But they’ve only just begun. As a result of the grant, Ankeny has devised a three-year efficiency plan, and the city council has provided the funds to embark on the first phase starting in July.

“The first year we are doing nine projects with an average payback of 1.3 years,” Lord said. “Those are no-brainer projects with a total cost of about $12,000 and annual savings of $10,000. We have lighting, water heaters, some load shifting, programmable thermostats.”

Because the city pays a higher electricity rate at peak times, it will start charging the carts at the city’s golf course at night – when power is cheaper – rather than during the pricier daytime hours.

Phase two projects are estimated to pay back in 2.5 years, and phase three projects after about four years, Lord said. When those are all completed for a total cost of $25,000, the city expects to save an additional $13,500 in energy costs every year.

At that point, Lord, said, the city will consider pricier improvements with longer payback horizons.

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