Done on a large-enough scale, simple actions like switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and getting rid of older-model spare refrigerators can help save...

Done on a large-enough scale, simple actions like switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and getting rid of older-model spare refrigerators can help save a small town’s worth of energy.

Consumers Energy reports that the efficiency steps it and its customers have taken have cut electricity consumption by more than 250,000 megawatt-hours a year — enough to meet the needs of about 30,000 homes. They’ve also helped to reduce natural gas use by 935 million cubic feet.

Together, those efforts saved around $38 million in energy costs last year, according to the utility. Over the lifetime of these energy-efficiency measures, total savings are estimated to be $428 million.

Consumers Energy launched its energy optimisation programs in response to Michigan’s 2008 energy reform law.  That law requires utilities to work with customers to reduce electricity use by 5.5 per cent and natural gas use by 3.85 per cent by 2015.

Due to significant levels of customer participation, Consumers Energy substantially exceeded the second-year savings required by the energy reform law.  The electric programs delivered 143 per cent above the target and the natural gas programs delivered 144 per cent above the target.

In 2010, more than 200,000 residential customers and more than 5,100 business customers participated in at least one of the energy efficiency programs. More than 10,000 highly efficient gas furnaces were installed, replacing less efficient furnaces. About 1.2 million CFLs were installed.  More than 125 major Michigan retailers supported the energy efficiency effort by offering CFLs discounted up to half the normal purchase price, with funding from Consumers Energy.

During the first two years of the program about 15,000 older, inefficient second refrigerators and freezers were picked up from customer homes. About 98 per cent of parts from these units were recycled at a regional facility. A new appliance transfer facility also opened in the area to support statewide expansion of the program.

Implementation contractors who operate the programs for Consumers Energy have added at least 86 full-time employees because of these energy efficiency programs.  Separately, the utility works with 1,700 trade allies and 30 Community Action Agencies that have created jobs because of these programs.

“We have a staff of more than 40 people in mid-Michigan working as a result of Consumers Energy’s energy efficiency programs,” said Chuck Kier, operations manager for Michigan-based KEMA Services, the implementation contractor for the commercial program.

Consumers Energy’s energy optimisation programs include incentives for the purchase of highly efficient equipment and appliances; home energy audits; and an information campaign to help customers understand and choose the benefits of energy efficiency.  Incentives are provided for customer purchases of highly efficient heating and cooling systems, water heaters, appliances, lighting and other energy efficiency measures.


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