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Deerfield continues 12-12 campaign; energy goal proves elusive

DEERFIELD — It’s been one year since a large lawn sign at the Tilton Library has been tracking the town’s average monthly electricity use. And over the past year that the town’s Energy Resources Committee has been counting kilowatt hours, the average monthly use of electricity has declined steadily and levelled off.

Although the town had incremental declines, it never reached the 12 percent reduction in annual average monthly household use it set out to do in 2012.

Committee member M.A. Swedlund found 2012 seemed to be a fluke, with energy use dropping between 7 and 8 percent from the previous year in April to June, but rising again to previous year figures by the winter time.

The large white sign was placed on North Main Street last year to track the average electricity use homes use each month compared to the same month in 2011.

The sign was part of the Energy Resource Committee’s 12-12 campaign to raise public awareness about curbing energy use. The sign only tracked electricity use — not heating oil or gas.

To meet its goal, the town had to drop its usage to 612 kilowatt hours, which started at a high of 970 kilowatt hours in January 2011.

The closest it came was a 7 percent decline in the spring months of 2012. In May 2012, the average monthly use was 512 kilowatt hours.

But the town was looking to sustain an annual decrease to 612 kilowatt hours. By July 2012, numbers rose back to that of previous years, resulting in only a 3 percent decrease over the course of the year.

For the first five months in 2013, the average use is comparable to 2011.

Swedlund said it’s difficult to compare the numbers year to year because 2012 had such a warm winter.

The campaign funding is through the $142,950 Green Community Grant the town received in 2011 from the state.

Out of the grant, $7,000 went to the 12-12 campaign. The total amount spent is $4,500.

Part of the grant funding was a requirement to reduce energy use by 20 percent in five years.

“We have three more years to meet the 20 percent reduction,” said Swedlund.

The energy sign isn’t really about yearly comparisons, however. The main reason for the sign is to raise awareness in the community about energy consumption.

“The main purpose of 12-12 is public awareness,” said Swedlund. “The sign is here for people to look at their energy bill and look at how much they used compared to the average.”

Though 2012 is over, the Energy Committee will continue its goal in 2013, tracking average household energy use and raising public awareness.

The Energy Resources Committee won’t change the campaign’s name though because now it is recognizable, Swedlund said.

There are about 100 12-12 campaign signs on neighborhood lawns. And the committee has starting visiting the transfer station recommending neighbors to get energy audits with the hopes that the number of energy audits goes up. They also provide those who receive audits a sticker to help raise awareness.

Western Mass. Electric Co. provides free energy audits at people’s homes with recommendations on how to curb energy use, such as sealing cold air leaks.

“We’re encouraging people to call WMECO,” said Swedlund. “They check out the furnace, insulation, and see how efficient the house is for free.”

In August, the committee will decide how it will move forward. It could stick with energy efficiency or move toward promoting solar energy.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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