Hamilton goes greener, saves electric customers some green

  • Mike Rutledge
  • Staff Writer
5:39 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 Community News

Tom Chambers, the chief financial officer of Valley Janitor Supply, is looking forward to seeing future electric bills from the city of Hamilton. That’s because they should be significantly lower than in the past.

His 51-year-old, 20-employee business at 401 S. Third St., which delivers janitorial supplies across southwest Ohio, occupies half a block of Hamilton’s downtown. It recently finished installing nearly 200 energy-efficient lights and other power-saving gizmos, such as devices that turn off lights when areas of his warehouse aren’t in use.

“What we were amazed at the first day (after the installation) was it was really quiet, and it was brighter,” Chambers said.

“The lights we had were the big ol’ 8-foot, big ballast, and kind of hummed,” Chambers said. “We replaced them with a bunch of 4-foot LEDs. I don’t know about the savings yet, because we just got it done in December.”

Under an Efficiency Smart program that Hamilton’s utilities offer through American Municipal Power, Chambers said he will receive rebates worth about 10 percent of his investment in energy efficiency. Based on projections by program officials, his company should recoup its efficiency investment within three years.

Valley Janitor Supply “will save about 56 Megawatt-hours of energy” each year, said David Cawley, Columbus-based director of the Efficiency Smart program.

That’s a lot of power: A Megawatt-hour is equal to one million watts of electricity used continuously for an hour — about equal to the amount used by 330 homes in an hour.

In the first year of a three-year contract, the program has worked with 1,850 homes and 60 businesses to help them become greener and save money.

“In this first year, we have saved over 2,300 Megawatt-hours of energy annually,” Cawley said. “That’ll continue over the life of the measures installed.”

About 24 percent of that energy savings has been to homes, with another 71 percent of the savings to businesses, and the remaining 5 percent to industrial companies. The program also gives rebates to Hamilton electric customers for buying energy-efficient appliances, even if the appliances are purchased beyond city limits.

“Hamilton businesses and residents have actually reduced their electric bills by over $200,000 annually,” Cawley said. “And if you look at it over the life of the efficiency measures that are in place, the savings are closer to $2.9 million, over the life.”

Over the lifetime of the lights and appliances, “it will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by about 59 million pounds,” Cawley said. “That’s the equivalent of taking 4,000 cars off the road for a year.”

The saved energy also has reduced Hamilton’s need to produce electricity by 0.4 percent, Cawley said.

The program has helped Hamilton’s schools, library and city government itself save money. City government already has replaced 945 of its approximately 9,000 streetlights citywide, and those energy savings can be passed along to city utility customers, said Mike Gurr, the city’s utilities field services superintendent.

Hamilton is a member of American Municipal Power, which in 2011 started offering energy-efficiency programs through Cawley’s non-profit organization, Vermont Energy Investment Corp.

Under the three-year contract, the program guarantees Hamilton will reduce power needs by at least 9,000 megawatt hours annually. The savings to the city and its electric customers will last about 10-15 years, because that’s the estimated lifetime of the more energy-efficient products.

The city pays $793,000 per year under the contract.

In the coming two years, the program will focus more heavily on helping residents and businesses in the city’s poorer Second and Fourth wards, Cawley said.

In those areas, “we’ve been working with seven multi-family property owners, which represent about 300 units of housing, and we are looking to close about 120 Megawatt-hours of savings over the course of the next year,” Cawley said.

Not only is the lighting more energy-efficient in apartment buildings, but it also can be more effective in illuminating areas of the properties’ public areas, Cawley noted. Plus, the savings can help keep rents lower.

Here are ways to contact the Efficiency Smart program, which is available to Hamilton electric customers only: www.efficiencysmart.org, and toll free, 877-889-3777.

“Of all the communities we’ve served, Hamilton has actually had one of the fastest starts, and one of the deepest levels of energy savings that we’ve had so far,” Cawley said.

Weeks after his company’s installation, Chambers still enjoys the feature that turns off lights when areas aren’t in use.

“It’s pretty cool: When you walk down the aisles, the lights pop on,” he said. “But if nobody’s in the aisle, the lights turn off.”

“It fit the bill for us perfectly,” Chambers said. “It prompted us to take a look at it, and be a little green.”

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