Profile: Proctor Public Utilities

Utility Energy Conservation Programs

Easy. Efficient. These are two words business owner Cullen Flaherty of Black Woods Group uses to describe working with the Proctor Public Utilities (PPU) conservation improvement program (CIP). He and his team have utilized the program multiple times for technical expertise and rebates to make energy-saving upgrades at Black Woods facilities in Proctor. 

Energy Insight, Inc., implements the program on PPU’s behalf. Its energy professionals build relationships and connect commercial customers like Black Woods to valuable resources and incentives that encourage energy- efficient building construction and facility improvements. 

“They are fantastic,” said Flaherty, who has worked with Energy Insight personnel in Proctor and in communities served by other utilities that partner with Energy Insight, as well. “The relationship has grown over the years, and it is something we do not take for granted. It is so easy. We talk about what we are planning to do, and they take it from there. They do all of the paperwork for the rebates. It is a win-win!” 

Having Energy Insight on the team makes life easier for folks at PPU, too. The utility serves around 90 commercial-industrial customers and nearly 1,350 residential customers in the city of Proctor. 

Like other municipal utilities in Minnesota, it has a state- mandated annual energy-savings goal of 1.5 percent of gross retail energy sales. It is Energy Insight’s job to make sure the utility meets that goal (which translates to about 350,000 kWh per year) and to handle CIP reporting requirements with the State. 

“We have a great relationship,” said Charliene Jones, commission secretary and operations manager for PPU. “Working with Energy Insight has taken a lot of work off my plate and reduced stress, especially with the CIP reporting requirements changing over the years. It is nice to have them be the first touch with commercial customers because they provide the expertise customers want to reduce kilowatt hours and lower their energy costs.” 

“Our relationship with PPU is built on trust,” said Energy Analyst Scott Wishart of Energy Insight, who serves as the primary liaison between the utility and its commercial customers. “They are confident sending us out as program representatives, and we feel confident approaching their customers, whether at a moment’s notice or through a preplanned visit.” 

Most business owners today recognize that even small steps such as changing light bulbs and fixtures to LEDs can save a significant amount of energy and money over time. Installing lighting controls, variable frequency drives on motors, and high-performance heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) equipment can save even more. Energy Insight conducts facility energy assessments, reviews project designs, calculates potential energy and cost savings, estimates payback, and submits applications for rebates. Incentives such as rebates offered through PPU offset the higher upfront costs of energy-efficient choices and make the decisions easier. 

“Businesses watch their budgets very closely, and rebate opportunities help persuade customers to do these projects,” said Wishart, adding that the earlier businesses connect with CIP consultants the better the results. “Being in on the front end is ideal to maximize energy savings and rebates available through PPU.” 

Proctor Public Schools turned to PPU and its representatives from Energy Insight to plan lighting for its new 60,000-square-foot ice arena, opening for the 2018-19 school year. The entire arena, inside and out, is lit by LEDs, with motion sensors and lighting controls for improved efficiency. 

“They are integral partners, advising us on energy-efficiency projects in our school and at the new arena,” said Superintendent John Engelking. “We don’t have lighting engineers on staff, so they do engineering cost evaluations and savings projections for us. It is a pretty slick deal. We are always looking for ways to build and operate facilities more efficiently.” 

Forbes United Methodist Church also is benefiting from Energy Insight’s expertise and rebates provided through PPU. The congregation is committed to saving energy and reducing its carbon footprint, so members welcomed the assistance with a recent lighting project. 

“(An Energy Insight representative) came through the building, did a complete inventory of our lights, and provided a template to follow in changing them out,” said Chuck Froseth, chair of the board of trustees for Forbes United Methodist Church. “Members stepped up and did most of the work, changing all of the lights to LEDs. It was nice to get rebates from the utility, but we’re most interested in energy savings and taking care of the planet.” 

Tracking energy savings to ensure PPU meets its goals is an important service that Energy Insight provides to the utility—and one that delivers results. 

“Near the end of the third quarter, they touch base and tell us where we are at with kilowatt savings,” Jones said. “Then we talk about projects to complete by the end of the year to get us over the top.” 

“We appreciate having the utility’s trust and confidence,” Wishart said. “This is a smooth, easy, professional relationship that serves PPU and its customers well.”