A free program called Energizing Indiana has emerged out of the Statehouse to potentially reach more than two million Indiana residents, businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations.
The program provides rebates, information, and installations designed to save money and combat energy waste.
"Several years ago, the (Indiana) Utility Regulatory Commission decided that they wanted to see a more consistent approach to energy efficiency programs," Bob Nuss, executive director of Energizing Indiana, says. "So they created an initiative with the five large utility companies and the Indiana Municipal Power Agency."
The Indiana Municipal Power Agency is a nonprofit utility organization that allows over 50 cities in the state to potluck their resources to provide low-cost energy. They, in conjunction with the legislature's demand-side Management Coordination Committee, set out to assemble a team to tackle statewide utility waste.
In the fall of 2011, Bob Nuss and GoodCents, a demand-side utility solutions company, were selected to bring the Energizing Indiana team together for a Jan. 2 launch.
"Our goal is to reach 48,000 homes by the end of the year," Nuss says. "We are doing well and we have our work cut out for us, but I do not doubt that we will achieve that number by the end of the year."
Energy heavyweights Duke Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Indianapolis Power and Light, NIPSCO and Vectren have combined forces to provide a gamut of energy conservation programs that reach nearly all corners of the state through Energizing Indiana.
Using customer dollars, the companies are giving back to their patrons on an immense scale. Participating energy companies have had conservation programs included in customers' bills, and now those customers have an opportunity to reap those benefits.
At a time when comparable energy-saving initiatives can be found in virtually all 50 states, Energizing Indiana stands out for its accessibility to the majority of Hoosiers.
"Nearly all the electric utility companies in Indiana are participating," Nuss says. "So, approximately 80 percent of utilities customers in the state are on utilities that are participating in the program that covers all customer classes."
Five cost-free programs
Energizing Indiana provides five cost-free programs to residential and businesses customers.
One program entails a commercial and industrial rebate incentive that rewards businesses that have invested in efficient heating, cooling, lighting, and major appliances. To date, Energizing Indiana has worked with more than 300 Indiana businesses, providing rebate incentives for energy efficient appliances, heating, cooling, and lighting.
A second program involves children. Over 45,000 fifth-grade and sixth-grade children all over the state have already taken Indiana-approved science curriculum that teaches students how to spot and stop waste. The students are given compact florescent light bulbs, faucet aerators, and low-flow showerheads.
Energizing Indiana will conduct audits of nearly 375 schools over the next two years, examining each institutions' energy use in-depth, and providing guidance on boosting efficiency.
The remaining three programs assess utility usage in homes, streamlining residential energy consumption and home weatherization efforts.
Energizing Indiana is searching for community organizations to take part in the program, according to Jessica Nuss, one of seven community outreach coordinators. [Editor's note: Jessica Nuss is also the daughter of Bob Nuss, the program's executive director.]
"Nonprofits are always a great way to touch your community," says Jessica Nuss. "They do so much and they are trying to stretch their money as much as they can. So the best way to reach people is through their churches and neighborhood groups."
Energizing Indiana's community outreach enrolled 1,000 homes in April alone —– and that number is climbing. Jessica Nuss and her colleagues have worked with Indianapolis-based Canterbury Neighborhood Association, the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center, and the Southeast community services, among others.
Cash for nonprofits
Bishop Carl J. Mimms III, 48, who has served at The Freedom Tabernacle of Praise for the past nine years, learned of Energizing Indiana at a monthly interdenominational Minister Alliance meeting.
Of Mimms' 135-person congregation, 100 have now utilized Energizing Indiana's services.
"This program is unlike any other," Mimms said. "It's a program that really helps people, and I like helping people and that appealed to me.
"What they did was extraordinary because it basically gave us a fundraiser with no overhead, which helped our church financially."
Energizing Indiana donates $25 to nonprofits for each person that participates in the progam.
"It's a great bonus for neighborhood groups, community groups and churches especially," Nuss said.
The amount of funds the nonprofit organization earns grows along with the demand.
"Our first check was fifty dollars, because we signed up only two people when we began," Mimms said. "Our second check is $675, and it's going to keep increasing because we are constantly getting people to sign up for the service."
Energizing Indiana has allotted the potential for each organization to receive $25,000. This 'soft cap' will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Jessica Nuss explained.
The Freedom Tabernacle of Praise is comprised of people living on fixed incomes, according to Mimms, and he says his congregation feels that they are able to give more to the church by participating in the free energy-saving initiative.
"I would advise everyone to become a part of this program," said EliceStowers, a 56-year-old, stay-at-home mother and wife who has been with The Freedom Tabernacle for four years.
Stowers signed up for the free service when an Energizing Indiana representative spoke at the church. Beyond giving her nine efficient florescent light bulbs and replacing her faucet heads, Energizing Indiana gave her an insight into which appliances were driving up her energy bill.
"It was informative. Had [the Energizing Indiana representative] not come in, I wouldn't have known about the refrigerator," Stowers says. The Energizing Indiana evaluation attributed nearly 45 percent of her utility bill to her older-model refrigerator. "Then to note what was needed around our house; I'm an older lady, I would have never got up on a ladder and looked into the attic to see that we needed more insulation."
If her family qualifies, Stowers may also be able to take advantage of the Income Qualified Weatherization program Energizing Indiana provides.
After participating in the residential program Stowers told friends, family, and strangersabout the benefits program and how it revealed the potential to save money and energy.
"It opens our eyes to energy, too," Stowers says. "We're becoming aware that we're wasting a lot of energy and it isn't going to last forever. We need to try to conserve this planet."
As summer progresses, Energizing Indiana aims to increase the number of Hoosier engaged in energy conservation.
"People should know this is a tremendous opportunity," Mimms says. "This program can be very effective for Indiana. Our church is ecstatic because it helps us move forward with not just fund-raising, but evangelism. We can evangelize and help people at the same time."
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