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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

NE Electric Utilities Offer Incentives to Conserve Energy, Lower Bills

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Thursday, August 24, 2023   

Nebraskans may not have needed as much air conditioning this summer as have people in the Southwest, but so far 2023 is tied for the most 100-degree days in the past 10 years.

It means more A-C use and higher utility costs for many. As of May, nearly 20 million Americans were behind on their utility bills.

Britton Gabel, manager of advocacy solutions for Omaha Public Power, said its Energy Efficiency Assistance Program helps income-eligible homeowners qualify for up to $2,000 in home efficiency improvements. They must participate in a home energy audit, which he said often identifies five areas needing improvements.

"Insulation, LED retrofits -- meaning upgraded lighting -- rim-joist insulation and window and door sealing," Gabel outlined. "And the other things that come into play are old, inefficient appliances."

Gabel pointed out homeowners and single-home renters in their 13-county district with incomes of less than 200% of federal poverty guidelines, currently $60,000 for a family of four, are eligible.

As far as non-income-based incentives, he noted their rebates for installing heat pumps are extremely popular, as are smaller energy-saving incentives such as their Cool Smart and Smart Thermostat programs. Details about these and other incentive programs are available on the OPPD website, along with information about Inflation Reduction Act tax incentives.

The Nebraska Public Power District serves retail and wholesale customers in 84 of Nebraska's 93 counties and also gets a lot of interest in rebates for heat-pump installation.

Steve Zach, energy efficiency supervisor for the district, said they use about two-thirds of their incentive allotment. On a smaller scale, he noted their cooling system tune-up is very popular and includes a $30 credit.

"They'll check for things like filters; they'll check refrigerant levels and pressures, whether your outdoor unit is plugged by cotton, perhaps," Zach explained. "A lot of times those technicians can find things that help those units run much more efficiently in the future."

Nebraska Public Power's EnergyWise program includes incentives for homes, businesses, ag operations, lawn and garden and electric vehicles.

Zach considered the programs a "win-win-win."

"I think it lets our customers know that we are concerned about them," Zach emphasized. "That we are doing these things because it's in their best interest, and as well as in ours, and as well as in the best interest of the environment."

At EnergyWisenebraska.com, customers can explore energy conservation incentives offered by Nebraska Public Power as well as 18 other Nebraska power utilities.


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