Since early in 2011, we have been working together on a challenging project.
The East Kentucky Power Cooperative Demand-Side Management and Renewable Energy Collaborative was established as a joint project of EKPC, its 16 owner-member cooperatives, the Sierra Club, the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.
The Mountain Association for Economic Development and the Federation for Appalachian Housing also became members.
The collaborative has been meeting for two years to evaluate and recommend actions for EKPC to expand deployment of renewable energy and demand-side management and to promote collaboration among participants in the implementation of those ideas. Demand-side management refers to programs designed to encourage consumers to improve energy efficiency and modify their patterns of electricity usage.
Coming from extremely diverse perspectives, we have found working together in the collaborative to be more beneficial than any of us could have imagined. We've looked in some detail at successful programs nearby and far away. Those of us who don't work in utilities have come to understand how Kentucky laws and regulations affect electric utilities and to recognize the challenges involved in motivating consumers to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses.
Through this long and sometimes arduous process, we have come to know and respect each other, in spite of our differences. We have discovered common ground and shared values that have enabled us to reach consensus on a number of recommendations for moving forward, including the following:
■ Invest in a 25- to 30-kilovolt solar photovoltaic installation and offer to lease individual panels to cooperative members, who would receive monthly credit for the amount of electricity generated.
■ Bolster the cooperatives' existing Envirowatts renewable offset program, which is based on electricity generated from landfill gas, by adding options to purchase solar, wind and/or low-impact hydroelectric energy.
■ Study and implement rate strategies that could promote energy efficiency and reduce demand.
■ Work toward partnership and collaboration with public interest groups, utilities and other agencies to market and promote energy efficiency and demand-side management.
■ Conduct a study of the energy savings and administrative costs of the How$mart program, a pilot program with MACED that finances energy efficiency improvements through estimated savings on electric bills.
■ Promote demand management through an "energy ambassador" program to train, certify and provide materials to volunteers.
We are also hosting a public forum Thursday, Sept. 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Inter-County Energy, 1009 Hustonville Rd. in Danville.
Members of the public will have an opportunity to engage with collaborative members to learn more about the group's work and to discuss ideas for renewable energy projects. Refreshments will be served. We hope to meet you there for a stimulating discussion.
About the authors: David Crews, vice president of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, is chairman and Tona Barkley, an environmental activist, is vice chairman of the Demand-Side Management and Renewable Energy Collaborative.