Small Town News


PUD 3 using tech to cut consumer costs

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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For many people, the subject of energy conservation might be too difficult to understand.

The idea might not hit close enough to home, said Justin Holzgrove, to make it matter to the average person.

It's by that approach, said Holzgrove, who works as the conservation manager for Public Utility District 3, that the average person loses out and loses money.

"Energy conservation as a whole ... is such an ambiguous topic," Holzgrove said. "You can't see electricity. You can't see it being consumed unless you go out and watch your meter spin."

One way Holzgrove and his colleagues at PUD 3 are trying to get the word out is through new media.

So far, his staff have posted three videos about the district's budget billing program, how to readjust the temperature on a hot water heater and an information video on PUD 3's photovoltaic system.

"For whatever reason, video is a much more accessible tool," said Ryan Smith, systems analyst.

And in each case, the video messages last less than two and one-half minutes. The goal is to convey clear and concise information in a friendly, functional format.

The online link to the video, hosted by, can be shared at no cost to as many people as possible.

The messages in the videos focus on conservation and, in a manner likely to catch a viewer's attention, the goal is to illustrate how energy conservation can save customers money.

"Did you know an electric water heater can account for up to 25 percent of a home's energy bill," Holzgrove asks in one video. "The United States Department of Energy recommends setting a residential water heater to 120 degrees to reduce energy usage and to help prevent scalding."

Holzgrove told the Journal that for every 10-degree reduction in temperature, customers can expect saving between 3 percent and 5 percent on their monthly electric bill.

Another program offered by PUD 3 is the "weatherization" of a home. Free for low-income homeowners, a conservation technician visits the home to determine ways in which heat is escaping the structure.

PUD 3 brochures state that up to 40 percent of a home's heat is lost through the ceiling. Walls and floors account for another 16 percent each.

"Increasing home insulation is the most cost-effective way to decrease home energy usage," Holzgrove said.

Simply adding insulation and sealing leaky ducts help improve a home's energy efficiency.

Holzgrove and Smith encouraged just about everyone to inquire about the weatherization program. A family of four with an annual income of more than $40,000 qualifies as low-income, Smith said.

"A lot of my friends would qualify for that," Smith said, "and they don't even know it."

Energy conservation, Smith said, "is a win for you and a win for us."

More than videos

Technology has increasingly become a part of the interaction between PUD 3 personnel and the district's 32,520 customers - 30,240 of which are residential customers.

Less than 10 years ago, the district didn't even accept credit card payments.

Now, 4,744 customers routinely pay with credit cards or pay online.

That figure nearly doubles (8,653) when including automatic bill paying customers.

In addition, a total of 9,944 customers have created an online account with PUD 3. A total of 2,739 of those customers have signed into their accounts in the last six weeks.

"Customer service drives a lot of what we do," Smith said. "Bill payment is the No. 1 reason people come to our website."

Holzgrove said that, in fact, it works the same way when people visit the Johns Prairie complex.

When a customer comes in to pay a bill, a customer service agent simply logs online and pays the bill much like the customer could do from the comfort of their own chair at home.

Copyright 2012 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: May 24, 2012

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