32 Towns Save $6.5 Million on Electric Bills

Each of Arnold's 679 residents (35 miles north of Gothenburg) saved about $250 on their electric bills, but they don't know it. Beginning in 1988, the local utility began installing equipment to curtail residents' electric use during certain times of the year. To partially pay for the equipment, the utility borrowed money at no-interest from a fund maintained by NMPP Energy, an organization of locally-owned electric systems. Since 1988, Arnold's locally-owned utility has been able to pile up $168,598 in savings.

Electric users in 31 other Nebraska towns have also saved money as well more than $6.5 million over the past 15 years.

Simple Solutions

Many times, it's the simplest modifications to a town's electric system that reaps the biggest dollar savings year after year. For some towns, the equipment is nothing more complicated than a monitor to let utility staff know when certain limits are within reach. When electric use approaches the limit, utility staff activate the town's siren, letting townsfolk know to turn off unnecessary electricity-using equipment.

A town's size is no hindrance to being able to save local residents money. Wilcox, 25 miles south of Kearney, has only 349 residents. Yet since 1987, people living there have each saved $135 on their electric bills, about a dollar a month for the past ten years.

North Platte A Big Winner

Most, but not all, of the towns applying for loans have fewer than 2,000 people. The first loans from NMPP's fund went to South Sioux City and Wood River in 1983. But, North Platte residents have saved $2.3 million since their management system was installed in 1985. This is more than one-third of all the savings in the state since the loans were first offered.

Load management systems are used by utilities to reduce their customers' use of electricity during certain periods to avoid having to buy very costly "peak" power.

Utilities contract for electric supplies based on a prediction of how much energy will be needed for any given time. In the summer, many utilities try a variety of methods to avoid exceeding the predicted amount of electrical use to avoid additional charges. In some towns, these charges have totaled tens of thousands of dollars for exceeding the prediction for only a few hours on just one day of an entire year.

$50,000 Goes A Long Way

In 1983, the Energy Office established a no-interest revolving loan fund at NMPP Energy with $50,000 in oil overcharge trust funds. The Electrical Load Management Loan Fund was one of the first uses of oil overcharge funds in the state and one of the first uses of revolving loan funds in the nation. Since 1983, the loan fund has revolved more than ten times, issuing loans totaling more than $500,000.

In 1982, Nebraska began receiving oil overcharge funds as a result of various court actions against actions oil companies that overcharged their customers during the period of price controls from 1973 to 1981. Since direct compensation to injured consumers seemed unrealistic, the courts ordered the money recovered from lawsuits be distributed to the states to fund efforts that provide indirect restitution to injured energy consumers. States were directed to use the money, within parameters established by the courts, to fund energy assistance and conservation programs.

Load management is one of a variety of means utilities have used to keep the state's electric rates among the lowest in the nation.

Any of NMPP Energy's 96 Nebraska members can apply for no interest loans to finance load management equipment. For more information about installing or upgrading your town's electrical load management system, contact Tim Sutherland or Rich Small at NMPP Energy at 402-474-4759.