A leader in conservation

For more than 30 years, the Eugene Water & Electric Board has been a national leader in promoting strong and innovative conservation programs.

Since inception, EWEB conservation programs have helped customers install efficiency improvements that save in excess of 490 million kilowatt-hours each year. These annual savings exceed the combined output of the utility's 6 hydroelectric projects.

In the beginning

EWEB's current energy-efficiency program grew out of the first oil crisis in 1973-74 and the public's interest in saving energy as an alternative to always providing for increased demand through construction of new power plants.

The roots of the program, now called Energy Management Services, began in 1976 when a group of EWEB employees visited Arkansas to see a model of the "Arkansas home." The house "was so energy efficient it could be heated with a hair dryer," recalls Mat Northway, former manager of EWEB's Energy Management Services department.

Back in Eugene, EWEB launched its first conservation program, called "Triple E," which certified homes as energy efficient.

A year later, in 1977, EWEB commissioners authorized the utility's first conservation center in downtown Eugene to help customers identify ways to reduce electric waste and improve efficiency of use.

"EWEB's Conservation Center was the very first of its kind in the country," says Ralph Cavanagh, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and one of the founders of the energy conservation movement.

In subsequent years, the program took off, especially following the Northwest Power Act in 1980, which provided funding through the Bonneville Power Administration to weatherize homes and promote other energy-efficiency measures.

By 1986, EWEB had weatherized 10,000 electrically heated homes in the utility's service territory. By 1991, the tally had reached 25,000.

In the 1990s, EWEB formalized its conservation efforts by including energy efficiency as a key part of the utility's Integrated Energy Resource Plan. An update of the plan identified conservation as the top priority, ahead of acquiring new renewable resources such as wind power.

Recognition due

As a leading proponent of conservation, EWEB received national and regional recognition for its work. Few state, regional or national energy-efficiency standards were enacted without EWEB's participation and leadership. EWEB has received awards from the U.S. Department of Energy, BPA, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and others.

"It is because of innovators like you that Oregon is a leader in the efficient use of energy," Former Gov. Victor Atiyeh said in presenting EWEB with the State of Oregon's "Governor's Energy Award."

Amory Lovins, chief executive officer of the Rocky Mountain Institute and another founder of the energy conservation movement, notes that "more efficient use (of electricity) is already America's biggest energy source — not oil, gas, coal or nuclear power. EWEB's leadership in efficient use of electricity has set an important example for the whole Northwest."

The 5 percent solution

In 1997, with funding from BPA declining significantly, commissioners began devoting up to 5% of retail revenues to conservation and energy-efficiency programs. It is a level of funding that is virtually unmatched among the nation's public and private utilities.