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RePower Bainbridge celebrates year milestone

RePower Bainbridge Energy Advisor Rick Blumenthal checks water heating qualities during a Home Energy Check-up.  - Bainbridge Island Review
RePower Bainbridge Energy Advisor Rick Blumenthal checks water heating qualities during a Home Energy Check-up.
— image credit: Bainbridge Island Review

Linda Allen had given up.

She couldn’t keep her 40-year-old Bainbridge Island cabin warmer than 50 degrees in the winter.

"It was so uncomfortable, I thought I would have to move," she said.

Then Allen stopped at the RePower Bainbridge booth at the Harvest Fair and signed up for its free energy efficiency assessment.

"They gave me back my home," she said.

Allen and 1,788 other islanders have had an assessment since the program launched officially mid-March last year. That's 45 percent of the group's ambitious goal of reaching 4,000 homes, or half the island's households.

To celebrate the milestone, RePower Bainbridge is having a party in downtown Winslow Saturday, "Small Island, Big Green." “Big Green Cards" will be distributed, which will give cardholders a 15-percent discount with 28 Winslow merchants that day. Kids and adults can go to Winslow Mall and slip into a free “Superhero” photo booth, meet Solar the Polar Bear and enjoy fun ball games and prizes hosted by the Bainbridge Youth Soccer Club. Winslow merchants offering discounts will have a RePower shamrock in their window decorated by Steven’s House participants.

 

Power down

RePower launched last March, boosted by a $4.88 million Energy Efficiency Conservation Grant from the Department of Energy. It hired Conservation Services Group to implement the program on Bainbridge and in Bremerton.

"Conservation Services Group is the preeminent organization nationwide in implementing energy efficiency programs. They hit the ground running," said Hilary Franz, a former city councilwoman and founding member of Positive Energy, a non-profit organization, who helped write the grant request.

Early on, it partnered with Olympic Community College to offer energy efficiency classes for both assessors and local contractors who would be certified to make improvements. So far, more than 35 people have been trained.

The city was also awarded an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant from the State of Washington to create an Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund. RePower partnered with Kitsap Credit Union, creating a $100,000 seed fund to assist homeowners and businesses to receive low-interest loans to make energy efficiency improvements.

After getting assessments, many homeowners have started with no- or low-cost ways to improve efficiency such as sealing drafts or putting water heaters on a timer. Others have taken advantage of incentives that Puget Sound Energy offers such as rebates on better insulation and appliances.

In addition, RePower Bainbridge offered a $400 rebate for improvements done within 90 days of the assessment. Of the 1,789 assessments, 353 homeowners have made at least two recommended improvements which qualify them for the rebate.

 

Word-of-mouth

The biggest surprise, Franz said, is the number of people who are contacting RePower Bainbridge because they've talked to their neighbors who have had work done.

"They're leading with questions about how to receive the upgrade, rather than the assessment," she said. "They say, 'I want a ductless heat pump,' because they've heard from a neighbor or a friend how much they're saving."

Allen is one who raves about her ductless heater.

"I'm saving 50 percent on electrical consumption and using no propane," she said.

RePower is also partnering with island churches, beginning with St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. An energy assessment was done for the church building itself, and the church is setting a goal for signing up congregation to sign up for home energy check ups. Church members will also help low income folks make upgrades to their housing, too, Franz said.

"We're a national success," Franz said.

She and others from RePower have been contacted by organizations across the country. Franz presented the program at a Green Jobs conference in Los Angeles last week and will share the program's success in Washington, D.C., in May.

On top of the progress toward overall energy efficiency, Positive Energy's efforts have also addressed a separate issue — peak usage. The island's three substations have a finite capacity for transferring electricity. PSE officials had been monitoring the island's usage, noticing a trend toward reaching peak capacity during certain winter days. Positive Energy's energy dashboard has given the community clear feedback about its energy usage and helped some people time their use of energy-hogging appliances, such as dishwashers and dryers, during non-peak usage hours. Subsequently, the island has reduced its peak consumption for two winters in a row, Franz said.

For more information on RePower Bainbridge, visit: www.repowerbainbridge.org or call 877-741-4330.

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