How does a utility address a rapidly increasing electric demand that is close to generation capacity? One path Sitka chose was to reduce demand. And thus, the Energy Star Rebate Program was born in an effort to provide Sitkans with more efficient electric appliances and heat pumps, saving families and businesses money.
The program provided $100,000 in rebates towards Energy Star refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, as well as heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters. When the program wrapped up in January, 194 individual rebates had been issued, helping to lower their energy costs and reduce demand on the hydroelectric systems. These appliance upgrades are saving Sitkans an estimated 35,000 kWh of energy use annually!
“This was money well spent on my part and the part of the City,” said Sitka resident Gary Short who received a rebate for a new freezer. “If it hadn’t been for the program, I’d still be running that old glacier. This program did exactly what it intended for me.” Mr. Short estimated that his old freezer was running about 40 minutes of every hour and used at least three times more energy than the replacement.
This successful program was a collaborative effort of the City Electric Department, the Sitka Conservation Society, City Finance and the City Public Works Department with support from the City Assembly. Research and public opinion surveying allowed staff to identify the most needed types of appliances, ultimately choosing refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters.
Not only were electric consumers benefitting from lower electric bills, but local and regional businesses also benefitted by selling approximately $400,000 in appliances, providing an estimated $20,000 in local sales tax revenue and leading to significant work for local contractors.
Energy efficiency and conservation is the cleanest and fastest energy resource, making it Alaska’s “first fuel.” It is great to see the City and Borough of Sitka illustrating leadership in making energy efficiency and conservation a priority in the community.