Lake County residents and businesses who are customers of Pacific Power can qualify for cash incentives and technical expertise from Energy Trust of Oregon. Karen Chase, southern Oregon outreach manager with Energy Trust, recently spoke to the Examiner about some of those incentives and other ways Energy Trust can help rural communities.
Chase is no stranger to rural communities, having lived in Cave Junction since 1999. She has also served rural Oregon customers in a number of areas including rural planning, health, and affordable housing, as well as in energy.
Energy Trust also has a Lake County-specific partnership that helps them better serve local residents — by working with the Lake County Resources Initiative (LCRI).
Chase has known LCRI Board Pres. Jim Walls for a number of years and has worked with LCRI Dir. Nick Johnson for many years as well. She first met Walls when he was appointed by former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber to be on Oregon’s Energy Advisory Working Group. During that time, she would check in Walls about what he was doing with solar. She maintained her relationship with Walls and he was one of the first contacts she made when she started with Energy Trust seven years ago as the Outreach Manager.
Chase said that Energy Trust’s relationship with LCRI is near and dear to her heart. “That’s an extraordinary organization, both with forestry management and renewable energy,” she said of LCRI, adding, “I wish all of my rural communities had an LCRI. It’s an asset.”
Chase said she tries to visit LCRI fairly routinely. She checks in with what programs are happening and meets with community leaders.
She emphasized that she is willing to make presentations about Energy Trust to groups that are interested. She also hopes to work with the Lake County Chamber of Commerce more in the future.
Purpose and goals
Chase said part of her job is to get the word out about what Energy Trust does, regardless of whether it’s serving a home, a business or an irrigator.
“Our job is to help people make good decisions around the incorporation of energy efficiency measures, like LED lighting or updated heating and cooling, and feasible renewable energy, like solar electricity. We are in the market to acquire energy savings,” she said.
One of the best parts of providing incentives is that they give customers longtime energy savings, Chase noted, so their bills are lower in the future. And getting customers to invest in renewable energy is good for business, too. Chase explained, “The more electrons we take off the grid, the more there is available for a new business to come in. And overall, we want to try and keep our utility rates low.”
One of Energy Trust’s main objectives is to keep energy costs down by encouraging implementation of energy efficient projects and the use of renewable energy. All available incentives can be found on Energy Trust’s website or by phone.
If someone wants to pursue an energy project, Energy Trust can help them with field staff.
Energy Trust revises its available incentives annually, but sometimes additional incentives become available throughout the year, Chase said.
It can be crucial for customers to take advantage of incentives sooner rather than later, Chase explained, because sometimes even if Energy Trust does retain an incentive, it may be ratcheted down. The first year an incentive comes out it may be high, and if customers wait and decide they will use the incentive the next year, it may not be as high as it was.
While Energy Trust incentives are typically the same throughout the state, Chase said there are times when they may be a little different in rural areas. Energy Trust may look at the individual difficulties in particular communities and decide to offer contractors an additional incentive to drive the distance demanded by rural locations, for instance.
Energy Trust is willing to try and find a way to make it easier to serve rural communities if a roadblock exists, she said.
Rural communities may also benefit more from Energy Trust’s Savings Within Reach program, which helps make home energy upgrades more affordable for income-qualified households.
The last two years, Energy Trust has offered elevated solar incentives to households that income qualify as well.
Energy Trust and Fire Recovery
Chase also serves as Energy Trust’s point person for fire recovery efforts. Since October of 2020, she has been attending meetings around the state to explore whether Energy Trust can assist individuals and businesses in the rebuilding process following wildfires. Part of that effort has been reaching out to people to see if they are aware of Energy Trust incentives when they do rebuild.
Energy Trust is engaged in research to see if there are fire resilient construction methods that also have an energy-saving component, Chase said, and whether there is a way to promote both aspects.
Chase said she is very happy to be approached about sponsoring local events that have a cross-threading with energy savings. While she can’t make any promises, she said it’s worth the conversation. In some cases, Energy Trust may be able to sponsor events that have a less obvious connection to energy savings, she said.
In Medford, the organization sponsored a multicultural fair that allowed it to connect with hundreds of customers it may not have been able to make contact with otherwise.
To learn more about Energy Trust of Oregon and the incentives it offers, visit energytrust.org.