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Advocates: Kentucky Power needs more robust energy-efficiency proposal

Kentucky News Connection

Kentucky Power, one of eastern Kentucky's largest utilities, has a new energy efficiency and conservation proposal for its customers. The state's Public Service Commission is expected to decide on the plan this fall.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taking even small steps to conserve energy, such as turning off lights and electric appliances when not in use, can help lower energy bills.

Chris Woolery, energy projects coordinator for the Mountain Association, said aside from a weatherization program for low-income residents, the utility has not offered any extensive energy efficiency programs until now. He argued eastern Kentucky residents need more options, as they experience ongoing rate hikes, higher energy bills and increasing extreme weather.

"They really need robust investments in energy efficiency and battery storage," Woolery pointed out. "That could lower their bills and make their homes and communities more resilient. "

Kentucky Power said it is looking to defer the need for new sources of power in the future and help lower ratepayers' usage and bills. The proposal includes a Home Energy Improvement Program and a Commercial Energy Solutions Program. Both programs offer energy audits performed by professional contractors for qualified customers and new incentives for upgrading to more energy-efficient products.

Woolery emphasized while the proposal is encouraging, it is not enough to offset costs in one of the Commonwealth's most energy-burdened regions. He contended the proposal could include measures that help customers install solar, and investments in smart appliances and battery storage; adding other states have developed models Kentucky could follow.

"Green Mountain Power in Vermont is one example that is investing in battery storage to reduce outages," Woolery noted. "They're doing it in a way that is cost-effective and helps the whole membership because they save money during peak power times. They saved over a million dollars in one week during the heat wave."

He added the Kentucky Public Service Commission is increasingly paying attention to public comments.

"In a recent case with the same utility, Kentucky Power, they have made a ruling on a rate increase proposal that cited public comment," Woolery emphasized. "That shows that public comment works."

The Commission is accepting public comments on the case until Oct. 31. Residents can find more information on how to submit a comment by visiting the Kentuckians for Energy Democracy website at k4ed.org.

Nadia Ramlagan covers the Ohio Valley and Appalachian region for Public News Service (Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia). She previously worked for The Center for Emerging Media and The Marc Steiner Show, a daily public affairs public radio program in Baltimore, MD and reported for WUKY in Lexington, KY. She's produced long-form radio documentaries and is currently in the process of working on a film. Nadia studied at the University of Edinburgh, American University, and Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.