Utilities offer incentives to reduce heating bills

You’d think that power companies would encourage you to use more power, so that they make more money. But many utilities are offering incentives to reduce your heating bill, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

In California, big utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co., whose natural gas rate is up 43% from last year, is offering 20% rebates on home heating bills for those that trim 10% from their winter natural-gas usage compared with last year. So far about two-thirds of the utility’s customers, representing more than 3 million households and small businesses, are in the running for that rebate.

In New Mexico, a local utility performed a televised “extreme energy makeover” of an Albuquerque house that used infrared imaging to show how weather-stripping and insulation could keep heat from escaping. The outcome: a 25% reduction in the home’s heating bill and the utility gave away thousands of weatherization kits to consumers.

Utilities in many other states are also rolling out new programs. In Massachusetts, KeySpan Corp. is providing an energy analyzer — in Spanish and English — to help customers get a handle on energy use. Citizens Gas & Coke Utility in Indianapolis gave away thousands of free programmable thermostats.

“This has been the most concerted conservation effort by utilities in at least a decade,” said Peggy Laramie, spokeswoman for the American Gas Association, a Washington trade group for gas utilities. Energy officials say that utilities throughout the nation are watching each other to see what works. That means the best successes from this season likely will be offered more broadly next year.

Now is the time to call your power company to see what incentives might be available to you!