PCUL & Duke partner for energy saving rebate seminar

BY STEVE TRAIMAN, Contributing Columnist

ST. PETERSBURG — Continuing its long community partnership with Duke Energy, the Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) hosted its annual Weatherization Day Workshop, Oct. 28 at its St. Petersburg headquarters.

The free event, which included giveaways, drawings and dinner, attracted about 50 local residents, according to Charlotte Anderson, PCUL Director of Construction & Housing Services.

The annual event is designed to give low-income residents the tips and tools they need to make their homes energy efficient and save them significant dollars.

The workshop also provided information on Duke’s Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program (LIWAP). It was the company’s first community assistance initiative developed in 1996 to provide assistance to low-income customers in the then Progress Energy service territory.

LIWAP is available in all 35 counties Duke serves, but only 27 currently participate in the program, including Pinellas, with eight participating agencies.

Results to date in Florida include 19,904 energy efficiency measures and 5,138 homes served.

Any customer who is 150 percent of poverty income guidelines is eligible for assistance according to Duke Program Manager for LIWAP Vernon McQueen who led the workshop.

Some examples are heating and cooling replacement, the biggest up to $350; insulation up to $125; AC/heating duct repair, $30 for the test and then up to $125 on repairs. All the contractors have to be licensed and insured, and meet all Duke Energy requirements.

Customers requesting assistance have to apply through the local weatherization agency in each county in the program, with the PCUL agency. Since 2012, about 700 homes have received $260,000 in rebates, including $40,000 for 128 homes so far in 2014.

Assisting McQueen at the workshop was Melvin Philpot, Program Manager for Duke’s Neighborhood Energy Saver initiative.  Although the two work in different cities, “we help with each other’s local programs,” McQueen notes. “Every year the Urban League has a ‘weather date’ and I’ve been involved since I joined Duke.”

According to Anderson, the event is promoted through their 5,000 clients who come in with their electric bills on a regular basis.

“We advise clients with the highest bills who keep coming back to attend, plus on our website and Facebook page. We pull stuff from our state funding through the Department of Economic Opportunity on weather and energy saving tips. We also have an enthusiastic committee with our Young Professionals who help get the word out, and some police officers who run into community folks who need assistance, and refer them to us,” she stated.

Expanding Duke Relationship

PCUL President and CEO Watson Haynes feel the weatherization program is a good example of the continuing expansion of their relationship with Duke Energy. Haynes reports that Duke has been very responsive to more of their programs this year.

In addition, they have employees serving on the PCUL’s Board and Education Committee, and Duke’s minority employees have been more involved through the A3 (Advocates for African-Americans) group.  Duke Florida President Alex Glenn has been very involved with many of the programs.

Earlier this year, Duke employees helped the PCUL develop a program with Lakewood Elementary School to improve student achievement in one of the area’s lowest rated schools. (The Weekly Challenger, April 3-9 issue).

“One project was making rockets with science, and Alex took a personal interest, taking several hours out of a busy schedule to attend the Lakewood presentation at the Science Center,” stated Haynes.

There are many tips to be learned at the Weatherization Day Workshops. Haynes even confessed to learning a few such as not to stand with the refrigerator door open as he figures out what he wants to eat, or to shut the door while speaking to someone on his porch.

“The bottom line for attendees is learning how to read their electric bill and see where costs are coming from – understanding their consumption of energy in the house. Programs like this prove that if they get the message, you can change the minds of people to how they can help themselves lower their costs. The LIWAP rebate program has meant a lot to many of our people,” said Haynes.

The PCUL looks forward to continuing and expanding their relationship with Duke Energy.

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