Communities save through energy program
Alaska Energy Authority
The new boiler, put into place by VEEP, now heats the building at much lower cost.
This October Alaskans celebrate Energy Awareness Month. The following is an article addressing just one of many programs across the state that work toward making Alaska more energy efficient.
With gas prices topping nearly $10 a gallon at times, the State of Alaska is determined to help find relief for rural Alaskans. Since August 2010, energy auditors with the Village Energy Efficiency Program (VEEP) have visited 49 villages spanning every corner of the state. The program assesses potential energy saving measures within community buildings and working with community leaders determines which changes to make.
“We have looked at hundreds of buildings, including working on churches, schools and several other types of public facilities,” said Sasha Zemanek, executive director of VEEP.
Using a state and federal grants administered by the Alaska Energy Authority, VEEP energy auditors conduct several assessments throughout the community and then residents choose which buildings need the upgrades.
“It’s a discussion, they say let’s do this together and make these improvements,” said Zemanek.
It’s a community-wide process, with a local workforce often making the majority of the improvements. Energy auditors provide specialized training to people in the area. So far, 500 people have been trained to assist with weatherization and lighting work. Some of the most common upgrades are programmable thermostats, caulking and weather stripping, and installing LED bulbs.
“These are really effective and relatively inexpensive changes,” said Zemanek.
Alaska Energy Authority
The old boiler at Kipnuk City Hall sits unused after it quit functioning. The city had resorted to using expensive electic heat in the building.
Communities will see a mixture when it comes to savings, some will be realized right away, while others will be over time. Zemanek estimates about 58,000 gallons of fuel and around $750,000 have been saved in the last year thanks to the program. Monetary and energy savings are the goal but the program also provides additional benefits.
“After one audit an elderly lady in a tribal office said, ‘It’s so nice to come to work and be warm,’ that was the best feeling,” said Zemanek.
VEEP hopes to continue to secure grants to keep the program going but through education, training and outside funding communities can keep the program going without VEEP. Hundreds have buildings have been assessed and even if a building doesn’t undergo upgrades through VEEP, communities have a list of the recommended changes that can be made in the future.
To review a list of programs/resources that provide energy efficiency upgrades visit www.akenergyefficiency.org.