Smart Energy Use

Alameda eyes energy savings for low-income customers

California public power utility Alameda Municipal Power has launched an energy savings program for low income customers that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions while lowering participants’ electric bills.

Alameda Municipal Power estimates the program will save more than 660,000 kWh over its 18-month life span. Under the program, customers enrolled in Alameda Municipal Power’s financial assistance programs will qualify to receive free upgrades that include whole-house weatherization, efficient LED lighting, advanced power strips, and refrigerator replacements.

“This program is a win-win for the environment and for customers, who will enjoy lower bills,” Kathleen Haley, senior communications specialist at Alameda Municipal Power, said.

“The program will make a real difference for customers who are struggling to make ends meet,” Nicolas Procos, Alameda Municipal Power’s general manager, said in a statement.

The city’s Public Utilities Board approved $750,000 for the low-income energy savings program. “If the program is a success, we will likely go back to the Public Utilities Board to extend the program and add more funding,” Haley said.

The program will be funded by prior short-term sales of some of Alameda Municipal Power’s renewable energy credits (RECs). The Public Utilities Board designates REC funds solely for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity use in Alameda.

Alameda Municipal Power said its low-income customers typically spend a higher percentage of their income on their energy bills and live in older homes with less efficient appliances, so they represent fertile ground for energy savings. In addition, energy-saving programs focused on low-income households can help address affordability by providing lighting and appliance upgrades and energy education, resulting in lower energy use at home and lower electric bills.

Alameda has several energy savings programs, but none specifically targeting low-income customers. “This segment has been particularly difficult to reach because low-income customers often rent and so they have little incentive to improve a home they don’t own,” Haley said. “On the flip side, landlords are usually not responsible for the electric bill, so they have little incentive to pursue energy efficient upgrades to the properties they own.”

AMP’s new program will provide a variety of measures to low-income customers and landlords at no cost. Depending on the measures installed, participating customers can expect to see up to 138 kWh per month in energy savings and up to $23 per month in bill savings.

In January, the Public Utilities Board approved Alameda Municipal Power’s five-year strategic plan. In addition to maintaining competitive rates, the plan calls for AMP to serve its customers with 100% clean energy by 2020.

Alameda Municipal Power has stakes in a variety of clean energy projects, including geothermal, hydroelectric, landfill gas, solar and wind generation facilities.

Nebraska’s Omaha Public Power District recently reported that it is launching a pilot program aimed at expanding the public power utility’s energy efficiency program among its low-income customers.