Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Houghton County to be announced Jan. 14 as semifinalist for $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize

HOUGHTON -- Residents of Houghton County are taking charge of their power bills, thanks to the efforts of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). On Wednesday, Jan. 14, Houghton County will be announced as one of 50 semifinalists for the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), a nationwide competition challenging communities across the USA to reduce energy consumption. The community which most drastically reduces energy consumption will be the winner of a $5 million dollar prize.

Houghton County’s entry is an initiative launched and led by Michigan Tech computer science graduate student Abhilash Kantamneni (pictured here), with the support and help of the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), the Houghton County Board of Commissioners and many Michigan Tech and community individuals and groups.

Photo: Abhilash ("Abhi") Kantamneni is pictured here at a HEET meeting during discussion of Houghton County's energy efficiency initiative mission statement and energy plan. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

A kick-off event will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, at the circuit courtroom, Houghton County Courthouse, 401 E. Houghton Avenue in Houghton. The event is open to the public.

A selected group of speakers will describe their excitement for the GUEP competition, pledge their support, and encourage the community to participate. After the event, a photo will be taken on the steps of the Houghton County Courthouse (weather permitting) with speakers and any community leaders who wish to participate. Bakery will be provided by Roy's Pasties and Bakery and Suomi Home Bakery and Restaurant.

HEET will partner with utilities and other groups to expand upon the work already being done, as well as explore alternative energy sources in order to reduce energy consumption, and more importantly power bills, in Houghton County for the two-year duration of the competition.

"This is a community effort," Houghton County Commissioner Scott Ala said, "This is a chance for the residents of Houghton County to be involved in something that will benefit the entire community."

This comes as timely news for Houghton County as the residents of the Upper Peninsula wonder whether their power rates will spike given the uncertain future of the Presque Isle Power Plant. The UP already pays some of the highest power rates in the country. Only Hawaii has more expensive electricity.

"The whole project has been gathering momentum and it’s good to see," said Bruce Woodry, Chairman and CEO of the Sigma Capital Group and a member of HEET’s Community Action Board. "Everybody wins on this deal. The community will win and individuals who winterize or have energy savings will win, period."

The community is encouraged to help win the Prize for Houghton County by taking some simple actions at home, such as caulking windows and doors and turning down the thermostat at night.

"Houghton County, as well as mayors and executives from across the country, have told us that the Prize gives them the momentum to accelerate their energy efficiency efforts," said Dr. Francis Slakely, Founder and Executive Director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize. "These semifinalist communities are leading the way for other small and medium size cities and counties to secure their energy future."

The local business community has already taken a step in jump-starting this effort for Houghton County residents by offering a 10 percent discount on weatherization products for anyone mentioning HEET at the time of purchase.

Efficiency UNITED Booths

Efficiency UNITED is a state and utility partnership program that helps people and businesses to become more energy efficient. They will have representatives in Houghton and Hancock Wednesday, Jan. 14, and Thursday, Jan. 15, to discuss the multiple rebates and programs they offer to Semco and UPPCO customers. They will also be selling energy efficient items (like LED light bulbs and low-flow showerheads) at cost.

Here are the locations:
  • 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 14 -- Pat's Foods in Hancock.
  • 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15 -- Econo Foods in Houghton. 
Efficiency UNITED is committed to educating both residential and commercial customers about energy efficiency and offers cost-effective solutions and rebates for reducing energy use. Efficiency UNITED is also in partnership with twenty of Michigan’s energy providers, including SEMCO ENERGY Gas Company and Upper Peninsula Power Company, to help customers discover ways to save energy through innovative energy efficiency programs and educational tools such as online energy audits.*
Hardware Store Sales

Local hardware stores have agreed to provide a 10 percent discount on "consumable" energy efficiency products (CFL and LED light bulbs, winterization supplies, etc.) from January 14-31 for customers who request the HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team) discount.

Dates: January 14-31

Participating Stores: Swift’s Hardware, Houghton; Risto’s Hardware, Hancock; Ace Hardware, Calumet.

Learn more at energizehoughton.org

For more information about HEET’s efforts and ways to get involved in saving money on your utility bills while winning the Prize for Houghton County, visit www.energizehoughton.org to stay on top of the latest ideas and opportunities HEET will be acting on locally or contact Robert Handler by email at rhandler@mtu.edu.

"The competition looks truly like America," said Dr. Slakely. "Not only do these communities come from across the map, they come from across the political spectrum, represent all socioeconomic strata and include demographically diverse populations. Some are paying the highest prices for energy; some have the ambition to be carbon net-zero, but all communities share the goal of transforming America’s energy future."

To learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize and to track the competition’s progress, visit www.guep.org, or follow the Prize on Twitter @GUEnergyPrize or on Facebook www.facebook.com/guenergyprize.

*Information on Efficiency UNITED can be found at www.efficiencyunited.com.

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