On-bill approach for energy efficiency upgrades spreads among electric cooperatives
Ouachita Electric brings no-debt tariff program to Arkansas with unanimous commission approval
Camden, Ark. — Feb. 25, 2016 — On Feb. 8 utility regulators in Arkansas approved a new financing tool for Ouachita Electric Cooperative that will become big news for its members. The unanimous decision clears the way to expanding investment in energy efficiency by harnessing a proven utility business model.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) approved an optional tariff for Ouachita Electric that allows the utility to invest in energy efficiency upgrades for members, like insulation and heat pumps, while recovering costs on the bill with a charge that is less than the estimated savings.
With this approach, cooperative members receive upgrades that can lower bills and increase comfort with no up-front costs or personal debt. Renters also qualify as cost recovery is associated with the utility’s meter at the property, rather than the individual. Ouachita Electric has offered its members loans for energy efficiency upgrades, and discovered that renters and families with limited capacity to take on debt were not benefiting.
“As a member cooperative, we want to make sure opportunities for energy savings are open to all members,” said Mark Cayce, general manager of Ouachita Electric. “Now, we are able to reach even more members with investments that are also strengthening our financial position. We are going to see this take off around the state and look back on this as a watershed moment.”
The tariff approved for Ouachita Electric is called Pay As You Save® (PAYS®), which is also the name of the system upon which it is based, as licensed from Energy Efficiency Institute, Inc. Cooperatives in Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina also offer programs based on the Pay As You Save system, and have reported achieving average energy savings of 25 percent for participants.
The APSC approval cleared the way for other Arkansas electric cooperatives to follow suit with similar filings. Collectively, the 17 electric cooperatives in Arkansas distribute energy to more than 500,000 members.
“The PAYS tariff is a breakthrough on multiple fronts,” said Holmes Hummel, founder of Clean Energy Works, winner of a Fire Award for high impact innovation in energy finance. “While participation in the clean energy economy is often restricted by access to financing, the PAYS tariff is opening doors of opportunity and consumer choice for all.”
More than 90 percent of the country’s persistent poverty counties are served by electric cooperatives, including Ouachita Electric. The Camden-based cooperative serves Calhoun County, which is among the 252 most distressed areas of the country in the Mississippi River Delta Region. Calhoun County is a semifinalist for the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize for communities leading the way on energy efficiency.
“Cutting wasted energy leaves money in the pockets of cooperative members, particularly for families that need it most,” says Tammy Agard, president of EEtility, Ouachita Electric’s energy efficiency program operator. “The PAYS tariff makes good business sense for all involved. We look forward to creating more jobs for contractors as Ouachita scales up investment in the local economy.”
Ouachita Electric Cooperative serves approximately 9,419 members in Bradley, Calhoun, Dallas, Nevada and Ouachita counties. Incorporated in 1939, the cooperative is based in Camden with a district office in Hampton. The locally owned and managed organization has 38 employees.
For additional information, contact:
Norma Beaver, Ouachita Electric Cooperative, 870.836.5791 or firstname.lastname@example.org