For decades, energy companies have encouraged customers to use energy efficiently in order to save energy. Terms used for this effort include energy efficiency (making better use of energy through more efficient technology), energy conservation (making better use of energy by changing our behavior) and load management (shifting energy use to off-peak periods). In the 1970s and 1980s, an energy crisis prompted the creation of energy-efficiency programs that encouraged customers to buy energy-efficient appliances. In the 1990s, rising energy prices brought energy-management programs to the forefront. Today, with an increasing concern about the environment, these programs help us all be more responsible energy consumers. For example, at Wisconsin Public Service, our residential use-per-customer has declined about 23% for electric and 15% for gas over the last 10 years on weather normalized bases.
The Integrys Viewpoint
Integrys Energy Group has always believed it has a responsibility to help customers use energy wisely. It's part of our mission to provide customers with the best value in energy and energy-related services. Whether the result is a lower energy bill or a lesser impact on the environment, energy-saving information and programs are valuable to our customers. A new priority for our company is to focus on energy efficiency in our own operations.
- Energy efficiency can help reduce our impact on the environment. Energy efficiency is a critical, cost-effective way to reduce emissions and our impact on the environment. Integrys companies in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states have energy-efficiency resources and programs in place for customers and are continually developing new ones.
- We must practice energy efficiency in our own operations. Our companies are focused on providing safe, reliable energy. We've always provided programs and information to help our customers make the most of the energy they use. As Integrys has become increasingly attuned to our impact on the environment, we have been changing our behavior. We realize that the best way to encourage energy efficiency is to begin "at home," in our own operations. With our own energy-efficiency success stories, we are better able to be a resource for customers.
Integrys Energy Group is addressing environmental issues by helping everyone get more energy-efficient. We are:
- Promoting energy efficiency. We actively educate customers about energy-efficient buildings and appliances and simple ways to use less energy. Here are some examples:
- Wisconsin Public Service funds Focus on Energy, the utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program. Since 2001, Focus on Energy has helped residents and businesses reduce their energy use and costs. Wisconsin Public Service partnered with Focus on Energy and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) to offer the iCanConserve energy conservation pilot project to three select communities. This three-year project's goal was simple: Give customers the rates, programs and tools to use less energy and lower their energy bills — without asking for unreasonable changes in lifestyles and work habits. Lessons learned from the pilot are now being brought forward to all WPS customers.
- The fourth Wisconsin Public Service Energy Challenge returned this fall. The program is open to all community nonprofit organizations located in the electric service area. The organizations compete for grants by saving energy and helping others save energy. To receive a grant, the organization's members, as a residential WPS customer, must complete a number of energy-saving challenges.
- Michigan Gas Utilities, WPS (Michigan) partners with Efficiency United to offer residential and business customers a variety of energy-efficiency rebates and programs to help reduce energy use and costs.
- Minnesota Energy Resources offers a variety of rebates and programs to help residential and business customers improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.
- The Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Natural Gas Savings Programs offer a wide range of incentives to encourage customers to make energy-efficiency upgrades to their properties. The programs include rebates and free energy-saving products for residential and business customers, as well as customized incentives and assistance from energy experts for commercial and industrial customers.
- On all of our utilities' websites, customers can find information to help them better manage their energy use and costs.
- Supporting regulatory changes to support energy efficiency. Decoupling mechanisms are being used nationally to help energy companies promote energy efficiency without incurring negative financial consequences. When energy companies promote energy efficiency, they essentially tell customers "Use less of the product we sell." It's an unusual statement for any business to make, but it's the right thing to do for customers and the environment. At the same time, every publicly traded energy company has a responsibility to provide shareholders with a reasonable return on their investment. That keeps energy companies viable so they can continue providing safe, reliable energy and help keep the economy working. Decoupling helps balance the interests of customers, the environment and investors. It separates the utility's recovery of fixed costs from the amount of energy delivered to customers. Decoupling has been used in over 1/2 of the states. Integrys utilities have embraced the use of decoupling in that states Integrys utilities operate and currently have decoupling approved in MN, MI and IL.
- Incorporating energy efficiency in our own operations. We believe it's worth the energy it takes to make improvements in efficiency. It's even more exciting to make changes like these:
- Wisconsin Public Service has an operations center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin that is certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a program of the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program seeks human and environmental health, sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
- Minnesota Energy Resources also has a LEED-certified operations center in Rochester, Minnesota.
- Integrys has an Energy Management Team. The team's goal is to reduce energy use in all Integrys buildings. The team's first step was to track energy use and engage employees in the planning. Several projects are in progress, including a computer monitor policy; lighting upgrades; digital controls for heating, ventilating and air conditioning; and occupancy sensors.
- Joining energy-efficiency discussions at the state and local level. The president and CEO of Integrys Energy Group as well as a number of other employees participated on Wisconsin's Task Force on Global Warming. The final recommendations of the task force included, for example, enhanced energy efficiency, energy-efficient and green building codes and energy-efficient lighting for rental properties.
In Illinois, Peoples Gas was among a core group of utility and industry leaders helping to shape the Chicago Climate Action Plan The priorities include reducing energy use through stringent building code enhancements, promoting green infrastructure such as green roofs, reducing travel emissions and moving to a clean, efficient energy supply.
- Participating in industry organizations to encourage energy-efficient technology and solutions. Integrys is a long-standing member of Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the American Gas Association (AGA). These groups are engaged in the public debate about how to address climate change. Both groups promote energy efficiency as the cornerstone of any climate change solution.