LPEA Expands Equitable Access to Electrification Programs
As the beneficial electrification (BE) movement grows, no one should be left behind. La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) is taking action to ensure its consumers have the support they need to make the switch to BE. Their latest project involves Animas View Mobile Home Park, a member-owned residential community in Durango, Colorado.
The relationship between Animas View and LPEA began when the mobile park’s director contacted the cooperative utility and asked for education on energy efficiency. LPEA has three staff members dedicated to serving such requests from the community and visited in person to talk about energy efficiency measures the residents could take to save on their bill. Most of the park’s residents belong to the area’s workforce or are retired so are living on a fixed income.
“Every dollar they save on their utility bill is money they can spend on other living expenses,” said LPEA Energy Management Program Architect Jon Kenney.
Months after visiting the community, Jon saw a grant opportunity from the Beneficial Electrification League (BEL), an organization that’s sole mission is to advance beneficial electrification in Colorado. The application was open to any electric cooperative with creative and innovative ideas related to electrification. Jon immediately thought of Animas View and wrote the grant application within 72 hours.
With the grant from BEL, supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperation Association, and matching funds from LPEA and Tri-State, Jon’s team recruited 20 Animas View residents to take place in a direct install project. Residents agreed to have a new grid interactive heat pump water heater (HPWH) installed, as well as LED lighting, and low-flow shower heads and fixtures. LPEA also weatherized the homes by sealing air leaks around windows and doors.
LPEA coordinated the entire project from start to finish so that participating homeowners didn’t have to lift a finger. Between the BEL grant money and matching funds, the project was completely covered; homeowners didn’t have to pay a dime.
“It’s been a great process and we’re very pleased to be a part of it,” said resident John Egan. “We feel like it’s benefitting not just our community but the entire state.”
A 2021 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that converting gas-fired water heaters to HPWHs would cut the equipment’s greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 58%. Additionally, if powered entirely by clean sources, HPWHs cause zero emissions.
Instead of generating heat directly, heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another. They’re three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistant water heaters, saving consumers 20-30% in energy costs.
The HPWHs installed at Animas View are grid interactive making the project one of the first of its kind at the time of install. Grid interactive means LPEA can control them remotely and adjust energy use during peak and non-peak hours to ease stress on the grid. The goal is to be able to make small changes during peak hours without homeowners noting any differences.
“This project is a great opportunity to test both the heat pump water heater technology and the grid-interactive control,” Jon explained. “There will be a lot of lessons learned from installations, performance, and load control strategies on this project. We hope to learn a great deal from this pilot and share that information to help others.”
LPEA has made great strides in educating their consumers about BE and helping them adopt electrification by providing rebates and support.
“We were pleased to support this innovative project that extends electrification and efficiency benefits to members,” said Tri-State Chief Energy Innovations Officer Reg Rudolph. “Not only will the members have reduced energy costs, but their indoor air quality will be better and greenhouse gas emissions lower.”
For information about rebates and electrification programs available to you, contact your electric cooperative or public power district.
Tri-State is a wholesale power supply cooperative, operating on a not-for-profit basis, with 45 members, including 42 utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power district members in four states that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State, visit www.tristate.coop.