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Jellico utility looks at energy efficiency

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By Natasha LaFayette

natasha@lafollettepress.com

 

The Jellico Electric and Water Board discussed a proposition to refund money to individuals who put power back in the system on Tuesday night.

The proposition was proposed to General Manager Mike Bethurem by the organization Kentucky Highlands.

“They (Kentucky Highlands) have been in business in Kentucky for a number of years, a non profit organization, that deal in real estate,” said Bethurem.

The company is looking toward applying for a federal grant that would allow it to build zero energy homes in the Whitley County area and sell the homes back to homeowners at a reduced price.

“They need a TVA distributer that can buy back any excess power generated by these solar panels or wind turbines that help in developing a zero energy home,” said Bethurem.

TVA has a green pilot program that signs up individuals who have energy saving homes and pays them 15 cents per kilowatt-hour that the homes put back into the system.

“For us to work with this organization they want us to fill out a letter that basically says we are going to participate and work with them and that we are a TVA affiliate partner in TVAs program,” said Bethurem.

The Jellico Utility is currently not a partner in the green program.

Betherum said he spoke with TVA and in order to participate the utility would have to sign an agreement.

“There really is no downside,” said Bethurem. “I just wanted to see if the board had any issues or objections to us looking at this program and participating to encourage construction in the area of energy efficient homes.”

There is no guarantee the organization would get the grant to build the homes. The homes would cost about $160,000 to build and the company estimates getting a $50,000 grant to build a homes and then sell it for around $110,000.

“They have to go to people that are 120 percent below the poverty level, which means they can’t afford to pay a whole lot anyway,” said Bethurem. “So they have to get the mix right before they can make it happen.”

A list of homes below standard was provided to the company for construction. Need is being evaluated in the area and Bethurem said there is definitely a need.

Board member Eddie Barton asked if there was a federal law that requires utilities to reimburse for energy put back into the system.

According to Bethurem, there is not a law that effects municipalities.

“There are some regulations out there that effect private utilities, but our contract with TVA would preclude us from doing it any way,” said Bethurem.

Board member Joann Watts made a motion to get involved with the program, saying it was a good thing. The board approved the motion.