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East End residents encouraged to compete for energy savings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two local organizations hope to pit East End residents against their neighbors, and blocks against blocks, in a friendly competition to conserve energy.

Starting next month, residents from at least 25 East End blocks will compete to see who can save the most electricity and natural gas over the next year.

Residents can find out more about what's called the E4 (Energy Efficiency in the East End) initiative Tuesday evening during a meeting of the East End Community Association. The group will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Woman's Club of Charleston, 1600 Virginia St. E.

The idea for the competition grew out of the Charleston Area Alliance's Vision 2030 20-year planning process, said Cullen Naumoff, a project manager with the Alliance.

Energy is one of the seven Kanawha Valley economic drivers identified in that plan, Naumoff said.

"We want to create a culture of conservation -- how do we use energy smarter?"

While conservation sounds great, the challenge is to get homeowners to embrace the idea, she said.

Other cities -- Boston in particular -- have held similar contests, Naumoff said. In 2009-10, about 100 households cut their energy bills by an average of 14 percent in Boston's Energy Smackdown. One household cut its costs by 73 percent.

Working in the East End, where the Alliance has strong partnerships with the neighborhood association and East End Main Street, organizers last week recruited 25 block captains, Naumoff said.

Captains will be in charge of recruiting residents in their blocks to join the competition and for maintaining enthusiasm. Each block has about 30 households, she said, which means the long 1500 blocks had to be divided.

"Every month, residents will report their energy usage, based on their Appalachian Power and Mountaineer Gas meter readings," Naumoff said. "We'll compare and create a report -- month X in 2013 and the same month in 2012."

A key to the program is the free energy audit -- the HomeSMART energy assessment -- offered by Appalachian Power, which identifies places where your home is wasting energy and suggests ways to improve efficiency.

You can sign up for an audit at the meeting Tuesday night, do it online or call Apco, Naumoff said.

However, the state Public Service Commission limits Apco to auditing no more than 20 homes a month, which could create a bit of a bottleneck.

"I would think if there's a huge, huge demand, I would hope they would re-evaluate that," she said, "but it's also an incentive to sign up early.

"We'd like every person to have an energy assessment, but you don't need to have an energy assessment to compete. Tuesday night will be the kickoff for E4. Residents can sign up for E4, meet their block captains and schedule an energy assessment.

"Through the month of January captains will go out, disseminating information. The first energy report will be for the month of February. We'll continue for 12 months, through January 2014."

Although the Apco audits are for homeowners only, renters can also participate, Naumoff said.

The Alliance also plans a series of workshops and other activities to publicize the program.

Jeff Barrie, an efficiency consultant from Tennessee, will present nonstop planning sessions Feb. 22 at the Alliance headquarters, and Bridgemont Community & Technical College will offer monthly workshops, also at the Alliance.

"Every participant will get a yard sign, and every block will have a thermometer to show how much energy they've saved throughout the competition.

For information, contact Cullen Naumoff, 304-340-4253 or cnaumoff@charlestonareaalliance.org.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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