Several of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have partnered with Advanced Energy to establish a program that provides energy efficiency upgrades to reduce home heating and cooling costs for members in need. Supported by federal funding, selected members use the program to connect with energy experts and resources to make upgrades that result in long-term energy savings.
Called the Enhancing Electric Cooperative Rebate Program (EECRP), participating cooperatives were selected based on a variety of factors, including existing home energy rebate programs. While the program may expand in the future, cooperatives participating in the initial wave included Brunswick Electric, Pee Dee Electric, Piedmont Electric Cooperative, Randolph EMC, Roanoke Electric Cooperative and South River EMC.
Brookes Versaggi, communications and member engagement manager at Brunswick Electric, said programs like this reflect the cooperatives’ commitment to giving back and helping those in need.
“Brunswick Electric aims to be more than just an energy provider; we want to be part of the community,” Versaggi said. “We’re always proud when we can make a difference in our members’ lives, and we hope for the opportunity to do similar initiatives in the future.”
Since the program’s inception in 2021, 71 cooperative members and their families have received new or upgraded HVAC systems. Heating and air conditioning typically accounts for more than half of total annual energy use in homes, so inefficient systems can lead to higher costs for homeowners. Beyond HVAC system installations and upgrades, some electric cooperatives were able to fund other efficiency projects using their existing programs. For example, Piedmont Electric’s Helping Hand Foundation funded plumbing and weatherization improvements for participating members. Pee Dee Electric gave eligible members a one-time bill credit for the installation of high efficiency heat pumps. Additionally, many homeowners who participated in the program received new smart thermostats and upgraded insulation from their cooperative.
Advanced Energy, a Raleigh-based nonprofit energy consulting firm, worked with the cooperatives to identify members with inefficient HVAC systems living in counties classified as economically distressed.
“This program expands Advanced Energy’s service to the local community and makes a positive impact through partnerships with electric cooperatives and local HVAC installers,” said Onté Johnson, project manager at Advanced Energy.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s State Energy Office provides the grants for the energy efficiency upgrades, with funding from the CARES Act in 2021 and the American Rescue Plan in 2022.
“This project is an extension of DEQ’s commitment to addressing equity and energy affordability for low-income North Carolinians,” said Beth Schrader, director of the NCDEQ State Energy Office. “By increasing energy efficiency in eligible homes, we can help reduce energy burden and provide safer, healthier environments for residents who need it most.”
Header image taken by Jim Robertson, Boone Electric Cooperative