Energy Pioneer rolls out community-based energy assessment and savings strategy
A company that performs an energy assessment on your home or business isn’t a new idea. But Energy Pioneer Solutions, based in Hastings, has expanded that concept by offering the assessment, the energy upgrades or repairs, and a unique way to pay for it: the company works with entire communities, setting up a contract with city utility departments to allow customers to pay for their energy upgrades as a monthly assessment on their utility bill.
April Christensen, Energy Pioneer’s Nebraska Community Coordinator, travels throughout Nebraska meeting with local city councils to tell them how Energy Pioneer can help their residents save money by saving energy.
“We make money when people save more money,” she said. And, she added, the company has been successful in helping people save money and energy. In the past year, they have helped customers save an estimated 157,000 cubic feet of natural gas and 1.9 million KWH of electricity, and 3,100 tons of carbon emissions have been reduced.
A kitchen-table startup
Energy Pioneer started around the kitchen table of CEO Scott Kleeb in 2009 with just five employees. By the end of 2012, the company had grown to nearly 50 people and had contracted with 16 Nebraska communities and communities in Iowa and Kansas to help residents and businesses save energy and money.
Energy Pioneer is a business with a mission — to save energy, thereby reducing damage to the earth caused by excess energy use. The second part of the mission is to make people feel more comfortable and safe in their own homes.
“It really takes care of people in the Midwest,” said Sara Tall, Marketing Coordinator for the company. Tall said CEO Kleeb is “very passionate about the people in this area. He’s also very passionate about the American Spirit.”
Kleeb said a recent study showed that there are 135 million homes in the United States that are in need of energy repairs, wasting $200 billion a year in energy costs. “That is a lot of money that could go back into our economy,” he said. “Our company tried to figure out a way for to treat efficiency as a resource for homeowners.”
A belief in the American Spirit
“Our ancestors built these towns as a community,” he said. Energy Pioneer works with communities as a whole to provide energy repairs to everyone who needs it in a town so the work that Energy Pioneer does helps people of all economic levels.
“Writing a check the day of a home energy assessment is not a possibility for everyone,” April Christensen said. That’s why the company came up with the innovative way of funding any energy-saving repairs through a monthly payment on a customer’s utility bill.
“The bill-pay allows us to serve a wider variety of people,” she said. “And, many times, we can get the changes paid for with the savings.”
It starts with an assessment
Brian Friehe, a project manager for Energy Pioneer, performs energy assessments and then oversees an Energy Pioneer team who comes into a home or business to make the energy improvements. An energy assessment takes approximately two hours and includes an evaluation of furnaces and air conditioners, duct work, insulation, lighting, thermostats, doors and windows. A special blower test sucks the air out of a home through the front door and then blows air back into a home to check for extreme air leakage. An assessment also includes safety checks, such as checking a home for gas leaks.
With Energy Pioneer for two years now, Friehe has a degree in construction management and has been certified through the Building Performance Institute to perform energy assessments.
“I’ve always been passionate about construction and quality work,” he said. And, he is becoming more passionate about energy savings as he sees how much energy homes and businesses can save.
25 percent savings typical
Typically, Friehe said, an assessment will show that an average home can save about 25 percent on utility costs. A recent assessment on a home built in the late 1970s showed that the homeowner could save 15 percent on utilities with some minor upgrades, such as five more inches of insulation in the attic; readjusting doors and adding weather stripping to seal air leaks; adding insulation between the home’s foundation and floor boards to prevent leaks of air into the basement; and sealing duct work.
Energy upgrades on that home would cost about $3,250. If paid for through a monthly city utility bill, the cost would be around $60 a month for five years. With the repairs, the homeowner would be projected to save about $1,800 over those five years with utility rates staying the same.
Friehe is able to project all this information with a unique software package designed for Energy Pioneer. Previous utility information is gathered prior to the assessment, so the homeowner can know the details about cost and consumption before the assessor leaves his or her home. Energy upgrades can be scheduled to take place two to four weeks after the assessment.
A regional solution
Customers in the following Nebraska cities have contracted with Energy Pioneer: Hastings, Broken Bow, Central City, Gothenburg, Sargent, Lexington, Campbell, Deshler, Edgar, Cozad, Dorchester, Superior, Crete, Hampton, Friend and Bridgeport. Hays, Kansas; and Wilton and Buffalo, Iowa, have also contracted with the company to offer energy upgrade payments on city utility bills for their residents.
George Anderson, chairman of the Hastings Utility Board, said his board “worked him over like you wouldn’t believe” when they were first presented with a proposal from Kleeb on offering Energy Pioneer’s services in Hastings.
After much research, the utility board decided 5-0 to go ahead with this “out-of-the-box” idea.
“It was an opportunity for our customers to do something they might not have been able to do,” George said. “I think it’s been remarkable.”
Energy Pioneer’s Community Coordinator April Christensen will continue to visit more cities in the coming years to offer their services. If you would like more information, please contact Energy Pioneer at (402) 834-0800 or visit the web site at www.energypioneersolutions.com.
For more information…
Energy Pioneer Solutions
3030 S Marian Rd.
Hastings, NE 68901