YVEA rebate program drops e-bikes, reduces overall funds amid higher energy prices | SteamboatToday.com

YVEA rebate program drops e-bikes, reduces overall funds amid higher energy prices

Case study shows a smart thermostat saved one co-op member more than $400 last winter in energy costs

Yampa Valley Electric Association members enter the 2022 annual meeting conducted in the vehicle bay at the YVEA offices on the east side of Craig. In 2023, YVEA had to reduce its budget by approximately 15% due to rising energy costs. As a result, its budget for rebates this year is $20,000, compared to $40,000 in 2022.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa Valley Electric Association’s rebate program will no longer offer rebates for e-bikes or LED light bulbs, as the co-op has allocated less money to its Energy Hero Rebate Program this year amid higher energy costs.

Last year, the program was so popular that YVEA ran out of the $40,000 it allocated to these rebates by September. E-bikes were such a popular purchase last year that rebates redeemed for them in August and September alone accounted for nearly 44% of all rebates issued in 2022.

“Last year was one of the strongest years that we’ve seen to the point where we ran out of money,” said Carly Davidson, spokesperson for YVEA. “E-bikes really helped bring awareness to that program and we’re really thankful for that.”

The rebate program is meant to spur beneficial electrification, which the co-op defines as upgrades that shift end-use energy sources from fossil fuels to electricity. A good example of this would be upgrading a natural gas hot water heater to one that runs on electricity or replacing a gas-powered lawn mower with one that is battery-powered.

Outdoor equipment like lawn mowers and snow blowers first became eligible for the rebate program last year. This year, these products are eligible again with a rebate earning 25% of the purchase price up to $150.

But the overall pot of money available for rebates is half of what it was last year at $20,000. Davidson said this is because YVEA is seeing higher energy costs this year, which spurred the co-op to reduce its overall budget by about 15%.

“Our board chose to reduce funding for rebates in order to bring our budgets in line with power supply cost increases so we are minimizing the rate impact on our members from this program,” Davidson said.

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About a quarter of the program’s funds have already been utilized so far this year, Davidson said. While several different products are eligible, each member can only get up to $500 worth of rebates, which are applied as credits on customers’ bills.

One new eligible item this year is a heat pump water heater, which generally costs as much as three times more to install than a conventional water heater but can save hundreds each year in energy costs. This rebate would cover either half the cost of a new water heater or $200, whichever is less.

Davidson said that part of the reason for removing e-bikes from the rebates program was so that more of the rebates could directly help members reduce their energy costs by upgrading thermostats or conducting energy assessments to lower their overall energy consumption.

A recent case study from the co-op showed that an upgraded thermostat could reduce energy costs significantly. For one member who was concerned about their energy usage creeping higher, installing a new smart thermostat dropped their winter energy usage by nearly 40% year over year.

Davidson said electric baseboard heat can be some of the highest energy consuming heat, so upgrading a thermostat can have large effect in these instances.

“We see (electric baseboard heating) is a huge cost for electrical usage for our members,” Davidson said. “It was amazing to see that those thermostats really paid for themselves within a year, within a winter of usage.”

The case study measured energy use from Oct. 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, at 11,476 kilowatts, which translates to about 63 kilowatts a day. After the smart thermostats were installed in September 2021, the energy usage over the same 182-day period dropped to 7,062 kilowatts or 38 kilowatts a day. YVEA calculated the savings over that span at $417, or about $2.30 a day.

Davidson said the thermostats cost just over $400 to install for this member, and the member installed it themselves. Having someone install it would have added about $200 to the cost. In addition to the energy savings, these thermostats are also eligible for a $50 rebate each.

 “After the rebate, after energy savings, the member would have been able to recoup even those installation costs,” Davidson said.

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