Electric Co-op's paying a different kind of energy bill

Nov 12, 2013

Local electric co-ops are writing checks for a different kind of energy bill. Flathead Electric Co-op in Kalispell recently wrote a check to Plum Creek for more than $380,000. It’s for energy efficiency upgrades at the lumber company’s sawmill. Promoting energy efficiency is something F-E-C is doing with the Bonneville Power Administration’s Energy Smart Industrial Program incentives.

Key Accounts Representative Don Newton with FEC said it’s actually in the Co-op’s best interest to get members to lower their electric bills.

“Someday in the future we’re going to have to buy more power than what we’re buying now, and once we reach that upper limit from Bonneville, we’ll have to buy on the open market at a much higher rate,” Newton said the efficiency programs tend to cost less than $.02-cents per kilowatt, which is less than what it costs to buy power from Bonneville.

He said Plum Creek is the Co-op’s largest single member and it has been heavily involved in the energy efficiency opportunities. The lumber company has completed 11 projects and received more than $2-million-dollars in incentives.

Plum Creek’s most recent project cost them more than$ 520,000 and involved installing a new air compressor. The changes are estimated to save Plum Creek about 1.7-million-kilowatt hours per year, reducing their power costs by $54,000 per year.

Newton said F-H Stoltze Land and Lumber out of Columbia Falls has also taken advantage of the program, as has the Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

“They’re installing a new heating system; the ground source heat pump, and they have a variety of programs that they’re taking participation in, and also commercial lighting. So, they’re another big contributor to our efficiency programs,” Newton said.

Flathead Electric also has an energy efficiency incentive program available on the small scale for homeowners through rebates for things like having energy efficient appliances, replacing windows, and installing heat pumps