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For a long time, energy efficiency (EE) wasn’t the cool kid on campus. Virtually ignored by most policy makers and energy companies, only in recent years has it begun to see it’s popularity rise.  To spread the word about this important topic, Fayetteville Public Library and Earth Day NWA teamed up for the “Green Your Life” Energy Efficiency Fair on Saturday, April 7, 2012.

Mike Lolley, Chairman of Earth Day NWA, was happy to partner with FPL again for the “Green Your Life Series,” particularly to promote something so important.

“Energy Efficiency is the ‘thwarted sector,’ said Lolley. “We have known about EE for decades, but policymakers and the in-state utilities did not want us to get wise about it until recently.  We are starting to see policy protecting people’s interests in the area of EE, such as the PSC docket for EE Benchmarks from 2011.  Public utilities within Arkansas must reach EE benchmarks or face penalties.”

Presenters such as Phil Watkins with AEP/SWEPCO and their subcontractor Lisa Grecho with Geavista, Rick Mayes with Northwest Arkansas Community College, and Lisa Pfitzinger with Source Gas all discussed the role their companies and organizations are playing in promoting energy efficiency.

The energy companies in attendance are offering utility rebates for EE interventions on existing buildings such as equipment and appliance replacement with Energy Star rated and above.  These rebates can often times more than make-up for the increased costs of the upgrade for the more energy efficient equipment.  Furthermore, there are rebates for interventions such as door/window replacement, weather sealing, add insulation, duct sealing and blower door testing for leakage.

NWACC created their programs for “green collar” jobs a few years ago at the urging of the Arkansas Energy Office. Their programs certify men and women in the areas of BPI Building Analyst Training, RESNET Energy Rater Training, and Air Conditioning Contractors of America Training.

Mayes discussed the programs and brought along the Energy Efficiency Training Mobile Lab, a major outreach tool, to show interested citizens about how energy audits take place and help the home.

“Early on, people were slow to recognize the value about where jobs are for energy auditors and why people should be energy audits,” said Mayes. “Over the last year, we’ve made some strides with outreach, along with other factors like government and utilities promoting the subject.”

Many people stopped by to chat with the presenters, who had information tables in the library.  Keaton Smith, a self-proclaimed “energy geek,” came to meet with the company representatives to discuss the new policies and ways he could save money.

“It was really interested to find out about the incentives and how companies like SWEPCO make it easy to find reliable contractors and help people purchase energy efficient equipment,” Smith said.

Lolley was pleased with the event and the new strides the companies are taking to energy efficiency.

“Through the combined efforts of the PSC docket for energy efficiency and the NWACC Centers of Excellence and the Utility Rebates, we are seeing a systemic shift toward energy efficiency in Arkansas,” he said. “Peer states are watching us intently, because we stand to see explosive growth in the once thwarted sector for EE becoming the emerging sector due to these policy changes.  EE may very well become the next bubble putting the idle construction sector back to work in EE retrofits on existing buildings.”

Earth Day NWA and Fayetteville Public Library will hold another “Green Your Life” event—“Public Transit & Smart Growth”—on Saturday, April 14, 2012, from 9-11 a.m.