Take small steps for a better energy future

It wasn’t long ago that energy was something most people took for granted. Gas was plentiful and cheap, renewable energy was something only “tree huggers” talked about and global warming was an exotic theory.

How times have changed.

These days, energy conservation has gone mainstream. Driven in part by high gas prices and increasing concern over the global climate, more and more Americans are starting to understand that energy isn’t just part of the quality of life we enjoy, it’s the key to it.

As a provider of electricity to more than 160,000 people in the state, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative has the opportunity and, we believe, the obligation to promote energy efficiency, conservation and the development of renewable energy. Part of that effort you may have seen recently on television in a series of commercials called smallSTEPS.

At the heart of the co-op’s smallSTEPS campaign is the belief that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or radically change your lifestyle to reduce carbon emissions and save energy.

For instance, if every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light (CFL), we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. CFLs are good for your wallet too – a $5 light lasts up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs and saves you approximately $30 per year in electric costs.

The smallSTEPS television commercials and our new Web site – smallsteps.coop – are the most visible part of our effort to foster greater social and environmental responsibility. We’ve launched several other initiatives that back our words with actions, including:

• Rebate offers of up to $1,500 on installation of solar hot water systems

• Rebate offers of up to $3,000 on installation of small wind generators

• Free home energy audits to 50 members

• Distribution of 1,000 free home energy kits

• Conversion of all NHEC facilities to energy-efficient lighting

• Installation of solar hot water at Plymouth headquarters facility

• Began conversion of NHEC fleet to hybrid and ultra low sulfur diesel vehicles

The electricity the co-op buys for use by its members comes from a variety of sources, most of which burn fossil fuels to generate power. Unfortunately, renewable energy in New England is not plentiful or cheap enough at this time to justify a dramatic shift to renewables in our power purchasing.

However, the co-op will be doing its part to transform the regional renewable energy market over the next two decades by steadily increasing the amount of power we purchase from renewable resources. To that end, we have joined the 25 x ’25 Coalition, a broad-based, non-partisan alliance whose goal is to derive 25 percent of the nation’s power from renewable resources by the year 2025.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll take the smallSTEPS message to heart and join the growing number of people who understand that together, we can make a difference.

Fred Anderson is president and chief executive of the New Hampshire Electric Co-op.

Categories: Opinion