Saving Energy and Saving Our Neighbors – Part 1

A recent editorial in the Port Townsend Leader reminded us that winter brings more than one concern about energy. Homeowners and renters alike are concerned about ways to save energy – and money – during the heating season here. There are plenty of things a household can do to save energy, ranging from behavioral changes and simple home maintenance procedures to larger projects and even the adoption of new technologies. The Leader article pointed out a second concern; many of our neighbors will not be able to afford their energy bills during the coming heating season.

With a little effort from each of us, we may be able to save enough on our own household heating to be able to help others in our community and that is a great additional incentive. Think of it as your own personal carbon offset program – you can reduce your carbon footprint while helping your neighbors get enough carbon to stay warm.

The federal Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is designed to help low income people stay warm in the winter by helping them pay their heating bills. The amount of money available each year varies, but for the last several years it has been going down. In 2012, Jefferson and Clallam Counties received an allocation of about $1.3 million. The 2013 allocation looks like it could be right around $1 million.  In Jefferson County, OlyCAP administers the LIHEAP program, making sure that applicants are qualified and approving payments to heating utility companies. While Puget Sound Energy supplied electricity here, they made grants for energy assistance through the PSE Warm Fund. These grants supplement the federal dollars and added at least another $200,000 a year or so to the amount of energy assistance available. With our new energy provider, the Jefferson County Public Utility District, there has not been time yet to build up the sort of reserves that allow contributions to the OlyCAP program. As it stands today, OlyCAP’s LIHEAP program is out of funds and, even if and when The Other Washington allocates additional funding the total available here may be far less than in years past. As the Leader editorial pointed out, we can help our neighbors by donating even a small amount to the PUD to support energy assistance.

Please consider calling the PUD at 360-385-5800 and asking them to bill you a little bit extra every month to support the Power Boost Program. It only takes a few minutes of your time and a few dollars from each of us to make a major difference.

In our next installment, we will look at some things you can do to save energy in your household – hopefully enough to pay for the contribution to the Power Boost Program. We have some energy saving tips and we can point you to some calculators that will help you estimate the value of your cost savings.

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