April 18, 2014

Gardner joins environmental challenge

Amy Cunningham
acunningham@gardnernews.com

Get ready, Gardner residents, to Take Charge of your electricity consumption and, in the process, help your city win $100,000 in a contest designed to promote energy efficiency and conservation.

The city council voted on Dec. 6 to participate in the sophomore Take Charge! Challenge, sponsored by a joint effort between the Climate and Energy Project and Efficiency Kansas.  The challenge pits city against city, competing to save energy and, in the process, save money.

“It’s to encourage and develop awareness to save electricity,” explained Stewart Fairburn, Gardner City Administrator. “We’ll have other cities that we’re going to be (competing) against.”

The program will run from January through October, 2011.  There are 16 municipalities across the state of Kansas who will take part in the contest, up from just six last year. Gardner has been placed in the northeast region and will directly compete against three neighboring communities in the area; Paola, Baldwin City and Ottawa.

Jessica Johnson, northeast Take Charge! coordinator, explained the purpose of the program is to reduce residential and small business energy use by implementing whole house efficiency.  She said that one of the goals is to have homes inspected for energy losses and leaks and then to improve their efficiency where possible.  While those inspections can be pricy, Johnson said that homeowners may find financial assistance.

“If you go through Efficiency Kansas, they help pay for (the audit),” Johnson said, going on to explain that most efficiency improvements can save residents money in the long run.  “According to Efficiency Kansas, there is a hole the size of a basketball in everybody’s house.”

Last year’s competition, reported the Take Charge! Challenge, which included only six cities, had residents and businesses of those towns switching light bulbs, weatherizing their homes, installing programmable thermostats, trading in old appliances for more energy efficient ones, and signing up for weatherization programs and audits.

The cities who participated in last year’s contest saved over 6 million kilowatt hours of electricity during the challenge year and took measures to ensure future savings of over 7 million kwh per year. Participants changed out more than 50,000 bulbs to CFLs, CFL bulbs use less power and have a longer rated life than traditional bulbs.  Residents distributed weatherization kits and energy-saving power strips.  They installed over 1,000 programmable thermostats and more than 200 energy efficient appliances in their homes.

Citizens also donated 2,600 hours volunteer time at 65 community events, attended by 11,000 people, promoting energy efficiency and conservation.

“When you put enough people together and save a little bit it adds up. Hopefully we can get some businesses on, some of those are our biggest users,” said Fairburn.  “We’re not creating something new, these are areas (for improvement) that people have talked about for a long time.”

Each participating city received an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the Kansas Energy Office of $25,000 to promote the program.

The cities will also have the added benefit of a regional coordinator to facilitate meetings and forge a plan for meeting the guidelines of the challenge.  Johnson will be working with the city in this capacity.  Residents will be reporting their own changes and improvements to takechargekansas.org.

Comments

  1. Does Gardner Energy give citizens a credit for having a heat pump or any other credits involving conserving of energy?

  2. GardnerPride says:

    Do any other utility companies? It’s not fair to hold Gardner Energy to standard that is not being met by any local energy company.

  3. GardnerPride: I have been advised KCP&L offer credits of this kind – guess we need to check further on this.

  4. Peter Plante says:

    Maybe if the citizens of gardner are willing to accept a 30% increase in rates over the next 5 years like I have with kcpl, they too can get a ‘credit’ for a heat pump. Keep your fingers crossed.

  5. Maybe the local Electric Board can mandate we build a coal-fired power plant to give us cheaper rates and it would go well with all of the pollution we will be getting with the intermodal project. Do you think the average citizen has any say whether it be with this local board or with KCP&L? You just better have the money to pay the bill.

  6. I think Gardner Pride exhibits what is lacking the most in our communities, innovation. On more than one occasion @gardnerpride has asked the rhetorical, “if no one else is doing it why should we?”

    We need to be forward thinking and stop comparing ourselves with others. We can innovate on our own and lead. Our own City government, as well as most of our State and National government, have this mindset that holds us back. We can do better.

    I think our Electric Utility has the right leadership and experience to lead the way. They should be looking into heat pump credits. As suggested to me by another we also need to go to Smart Electric Meters.

    We can make a difference but it needs forward thinking and a little more elbow grease.

  7. Jared T you are on target with some of your comments, but first I think the EUB needs to solve its identity crisis. Is it a public or private monopoly? If it is still hanging from the city’s apron strings its free thinking and innovation are limited. As to KCPL rate increase, at least KCPL customers have a complaint process thru the KCC, and public hearings are required before rate increases. Do Gardner residents have a hearing process for rate increases? Apparently not. Commentators seem to take any comments as a slap against tEUB, mine are not intended to be. I just believe this issue needs to be resolved for all concerned.

  8. Judith, Gardner Energy does give discounts on electric rates for homes that are all electric. If they have a heat pump specific discount I’m not sure. I could find out for you.

    Jared I believe we’re already looking into the Smart Electric Meters for the future. One thing I’ve been very impressed with about Bill Krawczyk, the Electric Director, is his forward thinking. They are always planning for the future and looking for ways to do things cheaper and more efficient.

    Samuel K, I believe if the city council and the Mayor really wanted to make a change to what is going on with the EUB they could. However the Board was set up to help GE run more efficiently. Before the board there were unrealistic limits put on spending and if GE wanted to do anything they had to go through the city council. It made it very difficult to manage what was going on.

    As far as public hearings or rate increases, I’m really not sure. I believe if we wanted to raise the rates we could without asking anyone. However, I believe we’re accountable as anyone. Everyone on the EUB lives in Gardner and would pay any rate increases just the same as everyone else. Like I said before, my house is all electric and I have to gulp down that blue bill every month just like the rest of us.

    I’ve been on the EUB for two years now, EVERY meeting we give time for anyone from the public that wants to make statements time to do so. I’m guessing through out the meeting if anyone wanted to ask a question or make a comment Randy Tedford, the Chairman, wouldn’t gavel you. In fact we don’t even have a gavel. :) We’re actually quite open to any comments. I hope Bill doesn’t mind me saying this, but if you call him to ask a question he’ll go the extra mile to make sure you have your answer.

    By the way we’ve only ever had ONE person show up to make a comment.

  9. Ryan, thanks for your input. You answered quite a few concerns. I would still encourage any utility board to adopt some type of hearing or complaint process. It’s not a matter of a “good or bad” board, it’s a matter of encouraging consumer input. It’s not feasible for all people to go to an EUB meeting, and for some it would be intimidating. Thank you for your comments.

  10. GardnerPride says:

    Jared, you’ve missed my points completely. I’m not saying “if no one else is doing it why should we?” What I have tried to point out is that it is unfair to hold Gardener to a yet to be established standard. If no other communities are offering any sort of Green Energy Credits, they why should someone criticize Gardner for not having one in place? Do I feel it’s something worth exploring and asking that the EUB to take into consideration…absolutely. Do I think it’s fair to say they aren’t doing there job for not already having one in place…absolutely not. What’s fair is asking them to consider such initiatives, then holding them accountable if they don’t.

    I’d also like to know what city doesn’t compare itself to others, both good and bad. That is the only way that a city can measure it’s success on a statewide, or even national level. If we weren’t using comparison measures and the such, then we would all simply have to rely on what our recent Community Surveys have said and believe that the average Gardner Citizen is happy with the level of service and the sense of community they feel in the city of Gardner and aren’t looking for things to change. Yet I believe we all know that isn’t the case. You have to compare to measure.

    What we can agree on is that innovation is the key to success for any growing city. There are very few models that show a city how to double it’s size in a decade and handle that growth without a substantial increase in commercial revenue in that time. This leaves us in a rather unique situation and only innovation can guide us through. In my opinion, you should expect your civic leaders to do so through governing innovation and should celebrate their successes. What I don’t support is slighting that same government for not being the first to fire a shot. Few innovative ideas will come without a cost, and unfortunately the current economic climate doesn’t provide us much room in the way of risks. I wish that wasn’t the case, but there are times when people have to be realists rather than idealists. Though they two can offer work hand-in-hand, there is most certainly a difference. It’s easy to demand innovation, yet have no ideas of your own and no way to cost justify the initiatives. It’s a completely different individual who can provide these ideas and ways that they can actually be implemented under our current economics. I hope we have those type of individuals on our local government boards, and if not, I hope those who think they can place their names on the ballot of upcoming elections.

    Again, it’s easy to demand more, but we need more people who are willing to DO more.

  11. @Gardner Pride, I reject your premise that just because “standards” are not universally accepted we shouldn’t push our government to set its own innovative standards and/or excel and go above expectations. In a community this size and with the exceptional problems we face our municipal government should be setting standards for excellence not waiting for others.

    And @gardner pride I do hold my government responsible for not forward thinking. I hold them accountable for the financial situation we find ourselves in. I hold the government responsible for not adopting innovating standards so that we can lead and not follow. We have two highly paid and highly capable city administrators who should have the green light to plan for the future of Gardner not following some blue print but trail blazing a new path.

    In general this has been a significant problem for our community. Our civic leaders both at the mayoral level as well at the council level have shown little or no resolve to think ahead. This situation has been compounded by the recall process and while the new council is getting up to speed we can not realistically hold them accountable.

  12. @Ryan, thanks for checking into the Smart Meters. Keep us posted on that as that seems to be a big step forward.

    @Ryan, what is the Electric’s board plan for producing its own energy? Is there a plan for that? Could there be a plan for that? Are there government grants for renewable energy that we could be taking advantage of? What about the land that we have sloted for development past Waverly, could that be filled with wind turbines? Could that produce energy that we could sell?

  13. Jared, with my limited knowledge of renewable energy, I know it is VERY expensive to produce and the pay back on the investment takes many years. Personally I think it would be a terrible financial investment, it might make us all “feel good,” but when we got the bill for it that would go away very quickly.

    As far as government grants I don’t know.

    Right now though the state of Kansas law is the utility reimburses customers at 150% of the wholesale rate for any energy it produces and could send back to the utility. Sounds like a good deal?

    Considering it would cost about $35,000 to $50,000 for a windturbine that would power and average home (10 kilowatts) I’m not to sure it is worth it. I paid $160 for my electicity last month. Without taking into effect the 150% I’d get from the utilities for anything I was able to send back to it, that would take about 218 years for me to break even. But I would sure feel good. :)

    Getting more information on the Smart Meter.

  14. @Ryan, Thanks. I will have to do my own research on the renewable energy. No doubt the government subsidizes clean energy however with the billions that States and corporations are investing in renewable energy I tend to side that it is slightly more economically than the numbers you provided.

  15. Jared check out this site, http://www.find-solar.org/index.php?page=wind-calculator. According to the US Energy Information Admin (http://www.eia.doe.gov/ask/electricity_faqs.asp#electricity_use_home)I found the average kilowatts used per month for the state of Kansas was 906 so 10,872 for the year. You’ll need some extra numbers for their calculator that I estimated.

    This website says I’ll break even in 15 years. However the government eats or pays for 30% of the $25,000 installation cost. That should make Judith happy.

    Payback numbers are also based on the wind speed, which seems like a unpredicatble moving varable. I’m doing this based on housing not commercial. Looks like my initial numbers are just a little high. ;)

  16. Just this past week or so, KCP&L has announced they will be purchasing power from wind turbines. I can only hope they are doing this since it is the smart thing to do since it reduces pollution and their customers will benefit from lower costs.

    Be informed and educated.

  17. KCP&L is raising MO cost of energy in May by 14%. They are raising KS cost of energy by 11.5%. Why? To pay for the cost of completing a coal-fired power plant near Weston. Judith did you know that since 2005 KCP&L has raised KS rates by 40%?

    KCP&L built a new coal burning plant because it produces far more energy than wind turbines.

    KCP&L is purchasing wind energy to meet the Missouri Renewable Energy Standard, which requires 2 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources in 2011. More renewable energy will be needed for the 5 percent target by 2014 and 10 percent by 2018. Doesn’t that make you “feel good.”

    You want to talk about a monopoly. The government is forcing wind energy on the people which will result in MUCH high costs of energy.

    Since we’re informing and educating.

  18. Thanks Ryan, I’ll take a look at that information.

    For me it seems like investing in Wind or any renewable resource, would be a good hedge against the fluctuations of fossil volatility. Plus, by taking advantage of government grants as well as the relatively lower cost of building wind turbines this would allow Gardner to be ahead of the game. The government has a 20% Wind by 2030 initiative that we could be a part of.

    It seems this might be a great opportunity to generate our own revenue, lower risk of buying from outside utilities and hedging against the almost certain fossil fuel rate hikes.

  19. I don’t know Taylor but you’re starting to sound like President Obama. :)

  20. Keep talking………..I learn more every day about what is causing me and other citizens big PROBLEMS……………..

  21. That is what we’re here for. To educate and inform right Judith?

  22. Keeping the facts straight – this taken directly from KCP&L’s website:

    Spread the Word
    Tell Us What You Think
    What’s the Rate Increase For & When Will It Go into Effect?
    In Kansas, the Kansas Corporation Commission ruled on our request on November 22, 2010. New Kansas rates went into effect December 1, 2010. In Missouri, our requests were filed on June 4, 2010 and are currently being evaluated by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

    Go to http://www.kcplenergyplan.com/sites/default/files/Kansas-Rate-Increase-Request-Fact-Sheet.pdf to find out what KCP&L FILED for but did not receive. They filed for an increase of 11.5% but I believe they only got a little over 4% increase.

    Keeping them honest here in Gardner the Judith way.

  23. Well there you go Judith. 4.5% increase is a lot less than 11.5%. I was looking at older information. Thanks for the clarification.

  24. The KCC should have most of the information you are discussing. To make energy cheaper, you need to remove the energy pass thru cost (energy fuel adjustment) that allows all utilities to “pass thru” the cost of energy from producer to customer. It removed the incentive for large utilies, such as KCPL, to find cheaper rates when they purchase from the grid. It’s like gasoline that goes up and down in cost, but it never returns to the pre “shortage” high. Prior to the pass thru legislation, utilities had to go before the KCC for any rate increase and justify it. Altho it wouldn’t help the EUB, it might help keep rates lower on power they for resale.
    Ryan, thanks for being an informed board member. My question to you would be: who do you see yourself representing?

  25. I am not sold Ryan is informed since he doesn’t work with facts but with lies as he has made clear for over a year with his involvement in the recall and even with this latest Board action regarding Gardner employee salaries.

    Again, KCP&L asked for or filed for an 11.5% increase and only got a 4.5% increase as evidenced by the following partial article from the Star:

    **********************************************

    Read more Business Posted on Mon, Nov. 22, 2010 11:26 PM
    By STEVE EVERLY
    The Kansas City Star
    Kansas City Power & Light customers in Kansas soon will pay more for electricity, but not as much as the utility had requested.

    The Kansas Corporation Commission, in a decision released Monday, said it would let KCP&L collect an extra $22 million annually, a 4.5 percent increase.

    The increase will take effect Dec. 1 and boost the average residential customer’s bills about $50 a year. With the increase, Kansas KCP&L customers’ rates will have gone up more than 30 percent in the past five years.

  26. Who do I see myself representing? I’d like to think I represent the citizens of Gardner. I don’t want to see my rates going up just as much as the next person. For us to increase the rates all we would get is some upset citizens. I love the fact that we don’t have a rate increase budgeted for the next five years. Before the board was formed and before Bill Krawczyk got there our reserves were about down to nothing. If there was an ice storm and we needed to call in help from outside, we would have been up a creek. Bill and the employees of GE have buildt the reserves up to 20% of the budget in the two years they have been there.

    GE has also implemented an intense 4 year tree trimming project. They have cut the tree back to a four year growth. GE has seperated the city into four parts so they should be able to cycle through. So once they have been trimmed they won’t have to be for another four years. In many cases they have had trees removed all together. GE has a tree replacement program as well for trees that have to be removed. I think we’d be very grateful for this if we had a good sized ice storm roll through here.

    As a citizen of Gardner I like to see GE focusing on the little things the protect us from the elements and give us quality service at the best rate we can swallow.

  27. And I would like to see the Electric Board being honest enough not to be pulling the scam of increasing the franchise fees they pay to the city of Gardner that was totally uncalled for if they were concerned with serving the citizens of Gardner with respect to their electric needs and costs. The Electric Board was playing politics and not serving the people in my opinion – about the last thing the citizens need.

  28. Ryan it’s good to see you are interested in serving rate payers and informing yourself about issues. Please remember that’s who you “work” for when making decisions. Your point that the city council does have oversight over the EUB, and apparently tacitly approved employee raises by not objecting is interesting. It’s also good that you are building reserves for emergencies. Is there a possibility that rates might be lowered or rebates provided to customers since the utility is so profitable? It used to be regulated utilities were only guaranteed a 10 percent profit. What is the profit margin for the EUB?

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