New energy conservation plan for KU and LG&E means higher customer bills, no free light bulbs

Kentucky Utilities
Kentucky Utilities Herald-Leader

FRANKFORT — A new energy efficiency plan for Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric will mean an increase in customers' bills, an end to free compact fluorescent bulbs mailed to residential customers and a pilot test for "smart" meters.

The plan, approved by the state Public Service Commission Friday, means that a KU or LG&E customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month will see a 29-cent increase in their monthly surcharge for the conservation program, to $3.78 a month for KU customers and $4.68 a month for LG&E customers.

In its order, the PSC authorized KU and LG&E to continue or expand 10 existing programs for residential or commercial customers. Four programs will be dropped and one limited program will be started on a trial basis.

The PSC also ordered the two utilities to study the potential for energy efficiency programs for industrial customers.

The discontinued programs include:

■ Mailing free compact fluorescent bulbs to residential customers;

■ Incentives to encourage the incorporation of energy efficient features in new home construction;

■ Discounts for residential and commercial customers to check and tune up their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to optimize efficiency;

■ A web-based referral network for energy efficiency services.

Portions of the efficiency plan that will be continued include:

■ Providing incentives to residential customers to install high-efficiency air conditioners, heat pumps and appliances, and to replace windows or add window films that reduce air conditioning usage.

■ An energy audit program available to all residential customers.

■ A program that provides high-usage residential customers with an energy usage profile and suggestions for reducing usage.

■ Energy audit, energy efficiency and weatherization programs specifically tailored to the needs of low-income customers.

■ Bill credits to residential customers who allow the utility to remotely turn off air conditioners for brief periods during times of peak demand.

■ Cash incentives for residential customers who recycle inefficient and old, but functioning, refrigerators and freezers.

■ Financial incentives for commercial customers to reduce energy usage through installation of energy-efficient equipment, through new construction that exceeds building code requirements for energy efficiency and through measures that reduce energy usage during times of peak demand.

■ Public education efforts, including programs in schools and for teachers.

A new program approved by the PSC involves the use of advanced "smart" electric meters that can track the details of a customers' usage. KU and LG&E are planning to provide the meters to as many as 5,000 customers per utility on a first-come, first-served basis.

Customers who receive the meters will have access to a website that allows them to see their own hour-by-hour usage within 48 hours of the time the data are collected.

PSC Chairman David Armstrong and Commissioner Linda Breathitt supported the advanced meter program. PSC Vice Chairman Jim Gardner did not. He said the companies did not apply a cost-benefit analysis to the program.

KU and LG&E are subsidiaries of PPL Corp. LG&E has 397,000 electric customers and 321,000 natural gas customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties. KU serves 543,000 customers in 77 Kentucky counties.