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Strategies for saving money

A new report this summer from the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicting higher electricity prices had me worried at first. My budget’s really tight and I don’t want to spend any more money than I have to on electricity. The report began, “The EIA expects the U.S. residential annual average electricity price to increase by 3.1 percent this year.” Then the report said, “Projected residential prices for electricity will increase by an additional 2.4 percent during 2015.”

That sounds bad. Then I realized that study was about national trends. Here in Kentucky nearly 2 million of us are served by electric co-ops.

Electric cooperatives run their businessess to serve their member-owners, not to make a profit. The goal at every co-op is to make the best match possible between providing the right amount of safe, reliable electricity to members while keeping costs carefully under control. It’s a balancing act, and it affects every decision.

As winter approaches, the managers at Big Rivers Electric Corporation, the generation and transmission cooperative that provides bulk electric power to three local co-ops in western Kentucky, are studying historic weather patterns. They’ll estimate how much electricity their member/customers will need, then plan the best way to use their power plants to provide steady, affordable electricity during cold weather.

Marty Littrel, managing director of Communications and Community Relations at Big Rivers, says, “The price of that electricity will be the same regardless if we have a mild or hard winter. But whatever the weather, there are many things consumers can do to keep their electricity use as low as possible. The distribution co-ops offer tips and services to help members reduce their electricity consumption. I don’t know of too many other businesses that help their customers spend less money with them!”

Spend less on electricity 

To find out how you can be a penny-pinching, energy-saving hero at your house all year long, check out more stories online. Find easy-to-do tips and tricks when you clickSpend less on electricity. You’ll also meet co-op folks who spend their workdays figuring out how to cut out waste and save money. Plus you can find out what energy columnist Nancy Grant does to keep her electric bill as low as possible. And remember—your local co-op always has plenty of energy-saving ideas to help you lower your monthly electric bill.

Web Exclusives:

Energy watchdog

Meet Mike McNalley at East Kentucky Power Cooperative

Mike McNalley’s job title, chief financial officer, brings to mind a very careful and studious fellow, dedicated to poringover rows of numbers with a sharp pencil. He does that sort of thing, but he has a slightly different approachthan your typical accountant.

Mike says, “It’s not just my job as CFO to pinch the pennies—it’s everybody’s job. Everybody has to have the mentality to save money andto maintain quality. It’s about having the right attitude, which is always thinking of our members first, and the costs they have to bear.”

That’s very important because East Kentucky Power Cooperative is the largest generation and transmission organization in the state, owned by 16 local cooperatives that provide electricity to consumers in 87 counties. Keeping an eye on all the costs to provide that bulk power to nearly 1 million people is a huge job.

Mike says, “We try very hard not to do anything that isn’t necessary. What’s important is to do what is really necessary, and to do that very well and in a cost-effective way. When we do that, the cost of our day-to-day operations will stay pretty low.”

Mike says, “We have suggestion boxes and other ways that all our employees can recommend improvements, and we take their ideas quite seriously. If something is just a trend, we’ll probably pass on it, but if it improves reliability and saves money, then we’ll say ‘yes, let’s try it.’”

Mike’s favorite light bulb

Mike McNalley’s energy-saving tip

East Kentucky Power Cooperative Chief Financial Officer Mike McNalley is also a member of Blue Grass Energy Cooperative, the distribution co-op headquartered in Nicholasville. “My house is only about 10 years old, and already very energy efficient. It’s well-insulated, tightly constructed, and I have a geothermal heat pump system. But I found something extra to do. I’ve replaced almost all of my old light bulbs with LEDs. I like the light quality—and I love the energy savings.”

Nancy Grant’s cheap and easy energy trick

$5 will stop air leaks around windows

I like the view out my home office windows year-round—but the cold north wind, not so much. Those windows are almost 20 years old and they’ve started to develop some gaps. So last year I bought a $5 package of weatherstripping to apply on the inside to stop the air leaks. Straight out of the box, the stuff looks like rope, but feels like Play-Doh—sort of sticky, but with no odor. I didn’t need any tools, or special skills—I just pressed it into place with my fingers. I’m much more comfortable at my desk now. I put some of the weatherstripping on the windows in the dining room and the bedrooms, too.  Last winter my furnace ran less often, and during this summer the air conditioning didn’t cycle on as much either. That’s cutting down on my electricity usage and making my monthly bill lower. Later, if I need to open any of the windows, I can just peel the weatherstripping off without damaging the paint.

Energy-saving ideas are just a click away

How to find great ideas online

Whether you’re just starting to make friends with the Internet or are already an experienced Web surfer, it’s easy to get connected to energy- and money-saving ideas from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Your local electric co-op’s Web site or Facebook page can help you start saving money today. Here are some tips about how to find good ideas.

In your favorite search system, type in the name of your local electric co-op, then click to go to your co-op’s home page. When you get there, look for tabs or buttons that say “Ways to Save” or “Smart Savings” or “Together We Save” or “Energy Efficiency.” Each co-op uses different phrases, but the idea is the same—proven steps that will lower your electricity use throughout the year. Click on one of those links, and you’ll find simple ideas to help you get started using less electricity right away.

Not sure which energy-saving idea to try first? You can get friendly, personal, expert help by calling your co-op and asking for information about energy audits and other services. And you may qualify for rebate programs that will reward you for replacing old wasteful items with new highly energy-efficient models.

Or right here at KentuckyLiving.com, click www.kentuckyliving.com/energy/features/energy-guides for the past five years of the annual, comprehensive Kentucky Living Energy Efficiency Guide.

Nancy Grant from October 2014 Issue

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