By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Ameren Illinois has recognized the city of Quincy for investments that businesses in town have made to save on energy costs.
Ameren Illinois' Most Progressive City Award is presented to one community in each of the utility company's six districts through its Act-OnEnergy program.
ActOnEnergy provides Ameren Illinois business customers, including private schools and nonprofits, with cash incentives to pursue energy-efficiency projects. Acceptable projects include lighting upgrades, heating and cooling work, steam trap systems, improved vehicle fuel efficiency, and installation of specialty equipment.
The program is funded through a small charge on utility bills mandated by state law.
Between June 1, 2012, and May 2013, 93 Quincy businesses completed 168 ActOnEnery projects and received $155,100 in incentive payments. The businesses are saving more than 3.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 1,974 therms of natural gas every year. That's the equivalent of the energy used by 450 cars in a year. The projects have produced $230,000 in annual utility savings.
Keith Martin, director of energy efficiency for Ameren Illinois, lauded the businesses that moved forward with energy-efficiency improvements and the contractors who completed the work at a brief ceremony Wednesday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center.
"We couldn't accomplish this work without some of the local contractors and urban allies that help assist these lighting projects and heating and cooling programs," Martin said.
Mayor Kyle Moore said the utility savings is important for the economy.
"These businesses can reinvest back in their business, they can spend with other contractors, they can hire people," he said. "So really the $230,000 repeats itself in our economy twofold."
The new lighting in the exhibition halls at the OLC served as an example of projects that save on energy. The Quincy Civic Center Authority approved replacement of 52 1,000-watt metal halide lights with more efficient LEDs.
OLC Executive Director Rob Ebbing said the $74,000 project should result in a 60 percent savings on energy used by the lights. The OLC was awarded a $32,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and a $24,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Community Foundation to help fund the lighting project. The rest was paid through the authority's bond budget.
"Money is out there, along with Ameren funds and other organizations around the state, to help provide savings in the utilities and cleaner output for everyone to enjoy," Ebbing said.
The new OLC lights, which were installed this month, can be controlled remotely through a computer, smartphone or tablet and don't require 15 minutes to warm up like the old lights did. A lift had to be used to turn individual lights in the old system on or off.
"We will now be able to control the lights individually, in groups from an iPad," Ebbing said, which will save on staff time.
In addition, the bulbs for the old light fixtures had to be replaced every few months, while the LED bulbs are expected to last years.