The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) in Nebraska, with financial support from American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) program, has completed a pilot project aimed at enhancing the utility’s ability to provide lower income customers with energy savings.
The goal of the DEED project was to help OPPD expand or modify a future program for an income-qualified energy efficiency program by making customers aware of how energy efficiency measures can reduce their energy burden and cut their costs.
The DEED pilot program is a redesign of OPPD’s Smart Steps Low-Income Energy Efficiency Program.
The redesign included a more efficient, less duplicative application process under which eligibility is determined by partner agencies, not by OPPD. The redesign also expanded the definition of low-income by opening the pilot program to households with income of up to double the federal poverty level, an increase from previous 150 percent threshold.
OPPD said a major challenge for its low-income energy-efficiency program had been reaching the different segments within the low-income population such as people living in rural areas.
By partnering with Program Partner Agencies, OPPD intends to reach segments of the low-income population, particularly rural areas, that have not been reached before.
For the pilot project, OPPD established partnerships with non-profit agencies in its service territory, which covers 13 urban and rural counties, mainly in eastern Nebraska.
Habitat for Humanity Omaha and Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership were selected as the contractors to perform the energy efficiency measures. Both are weatherization agencies in Nebraska leveraging Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Department of Energy funds.
The DEED project began in January 2020 but was paused in March by measures taken to slow the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic and then resumed in June 2020.
OPPD was granted an extension to July 15, 2022 to complete work on the DEED project because of limited resources as a result of several natural disasters that occurred during the project period, including a Polar Vortex that resulted in rolling blackouts for the first time in OPPD’s history and a windstorm that caused over 50 percent of the utility’s customers to lose power.
The DEED pilot project enabled OPPD will provide eligible customers with an energy efficiency kit, a home energy audit and, depending on the audit results, up to $2,000 for energy efficiency upgrades, $1,000 from OPPD and $1,000 from DEED funding.
In its final DEED report, OPPD found the average energy savings prior to the APPA investment was $102.68. With the APPA grant funds, OPPD said it was able to double the investment, with $2,000 towards energy efficiency improvements, and the average energy savings rose to $219.71. A total of 134 households were served by the pilot program.
“The compelling data proved the benefits of investing in an in-home energy assessment along with energy efficiency upgrades for income-qualified customers,” OPPD said in its final DEED report.
As a result of the pilot project OPPD also revamped and rebranded its Smart Steps to Saving Energy program, creating the Energy Efficiency Assistance Program (EEAP).