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North Carolina honored for governor-supported energy cost savings program


North Carolina has been honored for a state program supported by Governor McCrory that helps local governments, state agencies, schools and universities save money on utility projects.

Staff with the North Carolina Utility Savings Initiative received the 2016 Energy Stewardship Champion Award on Aug. 24 from the National Energy Services Coalition. North Carolina is one of only six states recognized this year.

“We’re proud North Carolina has been recognized for a program that has successfully helped public institutions and governments avoid millions of dollars in energy costs,” said Len Hoey, head of the Utilities Savings Initiative. “I think this award says a lot for our state and the overwhelming support we have received from the McCrory administration and the state legislature.”

The award honored North Carolina, in large part, because the Utility Savings Initiatives provides a service that helps state agencies, University of North Carolina institutions, local governments and schools secure performance contracts with private energy service companies. Unlike a traditional contract, a performance contract guarantees a project’s energy cost savings will pay for the cost of the project for the entire term of the contract. The energy service company agrees to pay for any shortfall if the amount of money saved does not pay for the project every year.

The four-person team with the Utility Savings Initiative uses its expertise to identify areas where schools, local governments, agencies and universities can cut their own energy costs and take advantage of certain incentives in performance contracts.

“For a performance contract to work, there has to be a return on investment for the dollars invested,” Hoey said. “This is the only way community colleges and K-12 schools can finance their own projects.”

Staff with the Utility Savings Initiative also conduct free basic energy assessments by studying ways public institutions can more efficiently use lighting, heating and air conditioning, and computer systems in facilities. Staff with the state program also train colleges, schools and local governments on how to create strategic energy plans and identify cost savings in utility bills.

Hoey estimates the program has helped public entities avoid more than $1 billion in energy costs since the program was created in 2002. The Utility Savings Initiative is part of the state environmental agency’s environmental assistance and customer service program.   

Hoey’s staff includes Renee Hutcheson, Kathy Walters and Kathleen Stahl.