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Duke Energy to pay customers to haul away old refrigerators

Duke Energy has received the green light to pay its North Carolina customers $30 to haul away old refrigerators.

The N.C. Utilities Commission said today that the incentive will promote energy efficiency by insuring that when customers buy energy-efficient refrigerators, older fridges are junked instead of being harnessed for double-duty in garages and attics.

Charlotte-based Duke expects nearly 51,000 customers to take advantage of the incentive in the first four years it's offered. Duke has about 180,000 customers in Chapel Hill, Durham and other parts of the Triangle, amounting to about 10 percent of the company's customer base in North Carolina.

The utilities commission also said that Duke will be able to recover its program costs through customer bills, as utilities typically do to pay for efficiency incentives and to compensate for losses in power sales that about as a result of efficiency programs. The commission gave Duke discretion to increase the fridge bonus up to $50 if necessary to keep customers interested.

Sensus to license energy efficiency software

Sensus, the Raleigh company that makes two-way utility meters and smart grid technology, has scored a license to distribute energy management software that allows consumers to monitor the electricity consumption of appliances on their property.

The software, created by U.K.-based Navetas Energy Management, will be available as an optional service that gives Sensus metering customers an online and mobile portal to track the electricity consumption of appliances. The system also provides information about daily usage patterns and the costs linked to each device.

"Our technology allows the customer to see disaggregated data such as the electricity consumed by a water heater in a basement or a toaster oven in the kitchen and know how much each device costs them to operate," said Matt Auto, Sensus’ vice president of corporate strategy and business development, in a statement.

Sensus’ meters allow homeowners and businesses to connect to smart grids and adjust thermostats remotely as well as track daily energy usage.

Duke Energy proposes new customer incentives for efficiency upgrades

Duke Energy is proposing a half dozen new energy-efficiency measures and cash incentives to encourage customers to invest in household upgrades. The incentives range from $30 to $400 and can be used in tandem with state and federal incentives, where applicable.

The Charlotte-based electric utility filed the request today with the N.C. Utilities Commission, the regulatory agency that must approve the measures as sound and worthwhile before customers can take advantage of them. Approval is likely since the measures are comparable to those already offered by Raleigh-based Progress Energy. 

Approval would also allow Duke to recover its program costs -- incentives, administrative and other expenses -- from all customers through their monthly bills. The rationale for spreading the costs is that all customers benefit from cleaner air and system-wide energy reductions that reduce the need for building costly new power plants. Energy-efficiency programs are considered the most cost-effective way to manage power demand.

Duke has about 180,000 customers in Chapel Hill, Durham and other parts of the Triangle, amounting to about 10 percent of the company's customer base in North Carolina.

Solar water heaters use 1/3 energy, Progress Energy study finds

Progress Energy customers saved an average of $235 a year by switching to solar thermal water heater, representing an average annual savings of 63 percent on the water heater portion of their power bill.

Those are the results Raleigh-based Progress reported this week to the N.C. Utilities Commission to wrap up a pilot project using 150 customers to test the efficiency of solar thermal water heaters. As part of the year-long pilot, Progress contributed $1,000 toward each customer's cost of buying as solar thermal water heater.

The company says that more than 15 percent of electricity used in a typical home is used for heating water. Solar water heaters use the sun as their primary source of energy, with electricity (or natural gas) as a backup.

Solar water heaters are known for their high efficiency performance as well as their high price tags, costing about 10 times to 20 times as much as a conventional water heater. Progress reported that buying and installing the solar water heaters averaged $7,271 per household, ranging from $4,000 to $12,375 per home.

Homeowners rarely pay the full price, however. In North Carolina, solar water heaters qualify for a 30 percent federal tax incentive and a 35 percent state tax credit (up to $1,400), which would cut the cost by about half.

N.C. hosting over 1,800 green energy projects

The Triangle accounts for one-third of the state's green energy projects, according to data issued this morning by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

In the first-of-its-kind assessment of a still-emerging field, the Raleigh advocacy group's N.C. Clean Energy Data Book shows that the Triangle includes examples of all five types of green energy in this state: biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and even wind.

The Sustainable Energy Association issued the report to document for lawmakers, academics and the public the state's widespread adoption of green energy, largely in the past few years, since the General Assembly mandated green energy in a 2007 law.

The group is urging legislators to continue encouraging policies that promote green energy projects by offering state incentives and requiring electric utilities to guy cleaner forms of energy from independent producers.

Stimulus grants totaling $4.6 million to pay for green energy projects

Organizations in the Triangle and elsewhere received $4.6 million this week in government grants for green energy in one of the last distributions of stimulus money in this state.

The grants, paid out through the N.C. Department of Commerce, will pay for solar-powered electric vehicle recharging stations in Asheville, swine waste-to-energy projects in Harnett County, and public workshops and exhibits promoting energy-efficient home retrofits.

The grants range in size from about $24,000 to $500,000. Recipients in the Triangle include private businesses and N.C. State University.

The local grants will pay for a geothermal HVAC system at Kyma Technologies in Raleigh, electric vehicle recharging stations by Praxis Technologies in Raleigh, fuel cell units by Microcell Corp. in Raleigh, training in energy audits by Go Green Lighting in Chapel Hill, as well as for the audits themselves to be conducted by Southern Energy Management in Morrisville.

Learn how to reduce utility bills at energy efficiency fair

Would you like to find ways to reduce your utility bills?  Chapel Hill and Carrboro will be hosting an Energy Efficiency Education Fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26.

State awards $8.5 million in energy subsidies

State officials announced $8.5 million in federal stimulus money for energy and conservation projects as North Carolina begins to wind down its stimulus funding.

The awards announced this morning by Gov. Bev Perdue's office range from $24,719 for a YMCA in Buncombe County to $500,000 for resin and fiber maker DAK Americas in Brunswick County and $500,000 for Kapstone Kraft, a paper mill in Halifax County.

The awards will pay for rooftop solar panels, landfill gas reclamation, solar thermal heating units and energy efficiency upgrades at local town halls, nonprofits and businesses.


Congress approves energy conservation incentives

After weeks of wrangling and debate, Congress voted at midnight to approve energy-efficiency incentives that will give homeowners tax breaks on insulation, windows, air conditioners and other upgrades. 

But the new incentives are not nearly as as generous as the ones in place now that are set to expire Dec. 31.

That means that homeowners have just two weeks to take advantage of the current incentives, if they can find a contractor or installer with available slots.

Tougher standards adopted for energy-efficient construction in N.C.

Stronger energy-efficiency standards were adopted today by the N.C. Building Code Council for both residential and commercial construction in North Carolina.  The new code, which is set to go in effect March 1, 2012, requires new commercial buildings to be 30 percent more efficient and new homes to be 15 percent more efficient. Read more about it here.

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