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Education Cuts Energy Costs in Rural Alaska


The cost of energy in rural Alaska communities can often reach beyond $8,000 annually, according to the Alaska Energy Authority. With homeowners shelling out that kind of cash every year, any savings adds up. The Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP) has a program designed to get the word out about simple behavioral changes and improvements that can cut costs by hundreds of dollars. 

“Energy Wise is a program to encourage conservation and educate people that live in these homes, in order to help them discover that energy efficiency is a good way to save money,” said Jolene John, Community Development Manager for Energy and Environmental Projects with the Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP).

Energy Wise was established in 2009, using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program has continued thanks to funding from NANA Corporation and a combination of state and federal funds. The program sends teams of two educators into rural Alaska homes, equipped with weatherization kits and simple energy saving tips. The educators are local hires that have been trained in energy conservation. 

Participants are often shocked to discover how simple changes can lead to major savings. For example, in most rural Alaska homes, it’s customary to leave coffee pots on all day in order to have a cup ready to offer when a visitor drops by. A more energy efficient solution is to make coffee, unplug the maker and then pour it into a carafe, which will keep the coffee warm for hours. This simple change can save up to $700 a year, according to John. 

“It’s through realizations like this that they change their behavior,” John said. “We save cash for homeowners and teach energy conservation at a time when energy is limited.” 

Turning off the coffee pot is just one of many changes rural Alaskans are encouraged to make. The Energy Wise crew members work with homeowners to install items in the home including carbon monoxide monitors, fire extinguishers, low-flow shower heads, power strips and weather stripping.

“It’s encouraging that so many people have benefited from this, we wish we could apply this program to the rest of Alaska because we know everybody is struggling,” John said.

Over 2,000 homes have been a part of the program to date and over 80 percent of those homeowners report that they have kept up with the changes and are seeing a savings on energy. 

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