by Rachel Norton
In today’s world, energy is a resource that’s relevant to every person, because we all need it. We don’t talk about energy with our friends and co-workers on a day-to-day basis. Instead, we just expect it to be there, and expect it to be affordable. Innovation continues regardless—we are all always learning about energy and the systems that we have created to use it. Do not let yourself feel intimidated by all the information out there, or by hearing experts talk about it. This resource is vital to you too, so you have just as much of a place in this conversation as anyone else.
Let’s take a closer look at energy usage and energy efficiency options in Kentucky.
Kentucky’s Energy Sources
Currently, coal provides 91.9% of the energy in our state. Other sources can be seen in the figure included.
Solar has become more popular in a few key areas across Kentucky. Kentucky Utilities, East KY Power, and others have begun adding solar panels to their power mix. Each of them are working to add opt-in solar energy programs.
It is important to note that over time the cost of coal has continued to rise as the cost of renewables has become more and more affordable. Take a close look at the following table of energy usage and payments. It compares electricity prices and average usage for coal states Kentucky and Wyoming and the national average.
Energy Efficiency Basics
When you want to get started improving your home energy efficiency, it’s a good idea to start out with a home energy evaluation from a professional. What does that look like? Depending on the size of your home and whether you have gas appliances in addition to electric ones, energy evaluations can take between 1½ to 3 hours. They generally involve a walk-through inspection, attic & crawlspace inspection, and blower door test (to measure the amount of leakage your home has to the outside). All the information gathered allows the building analyst to help you make informed, effective decisions about any energy efficiency renovations that will help improve your homes’ energy efficiency.
Large energy wasters are often found in the crawl space or attic; improper insulation or complete lack thereof can be huge problems for home heating and cooling. You also want to make sure that you use the most efficient machines to heat and cool your home. For example, space heaters are an extremely inefficient way to heat your home. If you find that your heating system is not operating well enough to meet your needs, consider having your unit serviced to check for any problems it may be having, or possibly start planning for an upgrade if your system is old. But no, the biggest energy wasters are not your windows… it’s hardly ever the windows… like ever.
Kentucky’s How$martKY™ Program
I work at the Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development (MACED) which is the program operator for How$martKY™ Program. We collaborate with utilities by assisting in home energy evaluations for their customers, during which we often find they need home energy efficiency retrofits. In many cases, people don’t have $5,000 in their budget for a new heat pump, better insulation, or air sealing, so the How$martKY™ program can finance these projects using the energy savings that the retrofits produce. In fact, the monthly How$martKY™ bill cannot exceed 90% of the customer’s savings, so the energy bill the customer receives goes down immediately even with the How$martKY™ charge included. We collaborate with local contractors to do the work, and have a goal of creating stable jobs to invest in the local economy. Currently we have partnerships with Jackson Energy, Big Sandy RECC, Licking Valley RECC, Fleming-Mason Energy, Grayson RECC, and Farmers RECC. I am hopeful that eventually How$martKY™ expands across the entire state, and that this savings opportunity can be available to everyone in need.
Rachel Norton, Residential Energy Specialist, rachel at maced.org
Rachel Norton joined MACED in May 2016 as a residential energy specialist. She is committed to creating a healthier, more sustainable global environment by focusing her efforts on the local community. While obtaining her degree in biosystems engineering at the University of Kentucky, she was involved in a variety of projects which solidified her interest in energy efficiency and sustainability. These interests have led her to work in energy auditing and manufacturing companies across Kentucky. She has been elected to leadership roles in her professional community, and has working with local nonprofit organizations. Ms. Norton is a certified Building Performance Analyst at MACED. She is also building her own energy auditing business called Rachel Saves the World. A native of Lexington, she enjoys spending her time out in the community eating good local food and chatting with good local people. She sees a glass half full, but a community in need of focused service that will foster the lives Kentuckians want to live.