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“Give Where You Live” has special meaning for resilient Colorado woman

Written by Peggy Hofstra | December 02, 2016

 

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In the spirit of this year’s Colorado Gives Day on Dec. 6, a southwest Colorado resident shares her experience with why it’s so important and impactful to support the nonprofits we love.

Sharon’s journey began 19 years ago with a major car accident and a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) followed by years of intensive rehabilitation. Despite these formidable obstacles, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation and began helping people with disabilities learn to live independently.

During her six years working at Southwest Center for Independence (SWCI) she helped many people with disabilities living on fixed incomes connect with resources to enable them to become self-sufficient. One such resource was Energy Outreach Colorado, and Sharon began partnering with us in our work to make home energy affordable.

In 2012, Sharon suffered another setback – an emotional and mental breakdown that caused her to be unable to work for more than three years. However, during this extended period of illness, she was able to realize a lifelong dream of publishing a small book of poetry and a memoir about her car accident and subsequent recovery.

During this trying period she turned from case worker to client and relied on the services she had previously helped others attain. Again, one such resource was Energy Outreach Colorado and our energy bill payment assistance which kept her warm and safe in her home.

Through a lot of hard work and support from her community, Sharon got back on her feet and recently started working again – this time for an organization that provides mental health services in southwest Colorado.

In the same week Sharon received her first paycheck, she also received a letter from EOC describing our unforeseen funding cuts that would have a devastating effect on low-income households, especially in rural parts of Colorado. Without hesitation, she made a heartfelt donation to EOC.

“When I worked at SWCI, I had come to depend on EOC as a vital resource in my community to help my clients who were on fixed incomes make their limited funds stretch to be able to cover their basic living expenses. When I personally was in need of this same type of assistance, I was so fortunate that EOC was available to me and very grateful that generous people had helped to make this fund possible! I was honored to be able to give back once I got back on my feet again to help others who find themselves in similar situations. Please join me today on Colorado Gives Day and proudly lend your support to EOC so that future Coloradoans can rest assured that this crucial benefit continues to be available to ensure that they will be able to remain safe and warm in their homes!”

Note: Sharon Mehesy is the author of “Seasons: a book of poetry reflecting on the Seasons of life” and “A Likely Story,” available for purchase at www.amazon.com.  

 

 

 

EOC Joins Nonprofit Rally for Colorado Gives Day

Written by Peggy Hofstra | November 29, 2016

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‘Tis the season of giving, and there’s no better feeling than bringing holiday joy to a family or senior right in your community. This week Energy Outreach Colorado staff joined other nonprofit representatives at the Colorado State Capital to build awareness about Colorado Gives Day on Dec. 6 – an annual 24-hour effort to generate online support for local nonprofits.

It’s easy to join the party. Simply go to ColoradoGives.org to pre-schedule a donation today to your choice of nearly 2,000 local nonprofits – including Energy Outreach Colorado -- that support the self-sufficiency, health and well-being of Coloradans and our beautiful state. The largest source of funding for most of these organizations is from individual donations, so your gift truly makes a difference.

Colorado Gives Day began in 2007 with $682,000 in donations. Since then, with more and more warm-hearted Coloradans getting into the act each year, it has raised a total of $111 million and become one of the nation’s most successful giving day efforts! This year, for the second time, Colorado Gives Day is featuring a $1 Million Incentive Fund provided by sponsors Community First Foundation and FirstBank, which increases the value your donation dollars. Something to celebrate!

Visit ColoradoGives.org today to schedule your donations and experience that warm fuzzy that comes from doing good and helping others.

 

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Calculate your home energy budget percentage

Written by Peggy Hofstra | November 28, 2016

 

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How much of your monthly income do you spend on home energy? And how does your amount compare to that of other Coloradans? Find out by taking a moment to try out our simple home energy calculator at http://www.energyoutreach.org/calculator.

 

All you need is two numbers -- the average amount of your monthly energy bill and your yearly household income. We’ll do the rest. You may be surprised to see how your result compares to the more than 118,000 Colorado households living at or below 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $12,150 annually for a family of four.

 

 

Energy Assistance Makes Going Home Safe Again for Struggling Colorado Family

Written by Peggy Hofstra | November 21, 2016

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Energy assistance made it possible for Melissa and her daughters to come home safely.

They’d been desperate for several days after the power in their apartment was shut off, unable to keep food refrigerated, access the Internet for work and school, run the garbage disposal. They’d relied on spending long, tiring days across town with family members, coming home late at night to dark rooms and cold showers.

“I felt like I was losing my mind,” said Melissa, a single parent with a toddler and a 13 year-old. “I was at a total loss and didn’t know what to do.”

Thanks to the kindness and caring of Energy Outreach Colorado donors, she received support during this dark time through energy bill payment assistance. Rather than continue to face more dangerous choices like going without medical care or getting behind on rent, she and her girls felt blessed to turn on the lights and move forward.

“It was an amazing ending to that nightmare,” Melissa said. It was one of the few bright moments she’s had in a difficult year marked by the devastating death of her mother, a brutal assault on her teenager and the unexpected loss of her job.

“It’s been a really rough time for us,” she said. “I just needed help catching up.”

EOC and Partner Energy Organizations Collaborate to Create Milestone Solar Access for Low-Income Coloradans

Written by Office of Gov. John Hickenlooper | November 19, 2016

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The Colorado Energy Office (CEO), Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), and GRID Alternatives Colorado this week recognized the adoption of strong consumer protections and program offerings to bring equity and access of renewable energy to low-income customers served by Xcel Energy.

Last week, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Xcel Energy utility settlement, which establishes the most comprehensive low-income solar access in the country. The milestone agreement creates a market environment in which utilities address customers most in need without deviating from renewable energy goals; developers realize business goals while serving a new customer segment; and low-income customers receive a reduction in energy expenditures which can be utilized for other basic necessities.

“The Xcel Energy settlement is a momentous step forward for our state’s low-income energy consumers, and we’re proud to have been a part of it,” said Skip Arnold, executive director of Energy Outreach Colorado. “Many diverse organizations and parties came together to seek a common solution for delivering affordable energy for Coloradans, particularly those most vulnerable.”

As the state’s leading advocate for Colorado’s low-income energy consumers, EOC ensured low-income customers would not be adversely affected by time-of-use rates that adjust electricity rates based on low- and high-demand periods. These efforts include hold harmless clauses for low-income households and the removal of grid charges which have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income customers. The inclusion of these concessions paved the way for the adoption of new and innovative avenues for low-income customers to access renewable energy.

Under the settlement, Xcel Energy will add up to 342 megawatts (MW) of new solar generation capacity including more than 300MW of community solar projects and up to 225MW of new rooftop solar, all between 2017 and 2019. The settlement resolves long standing equity and access issues for low-income customers who have contributed to solar energy rebate pools but have not had navigable pathways to participate in these programs. This success has been largely built on innovative policy models developed uniquely in Colorado.

“CEO’s work in policy development and low-income solar demonstration projects were a precursor to the settlement,” said Jeff Ackermann, Director of the Colorado Energy Office. “These policy developments and the resulting program offerings exponentially increase the availability of affordable low-income solar in Colorado, from under 2MW to more than 20MW, and this can be a model for other utilities nationally.”

CEO is recognized as a national leader in developing holistic approaches to reduce household energy burden. These approaches ensure low-income customers, through the adoption of energy efficiency measures and connection to solar, see reductions in energy expenditures for both home heating and electric use.

The Xcel Energy settlement also creates a favorable market in which low-income solar offerings can thrive by providing developers access to new customers and assisting the utility in meeting its goals. The settlement offers solar developers access to incentives and performance structures as in the mass market. It also provides options to overcome traditional barriers to low-income customer engagement such as access to capital, lender related risk, and new market exploration. Additionally, the settlement creates structures to encourage workforce development and job training.

“We see this as a national model showing how utilities and solar developers can work together to expand energy access and, most importantly, guarantee solar benefits reach our low-income communities,” said Chuck Watkins, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Colorado. “The settlement’s programs will reduce energy cost burdens for ratepayers most vulnerable to energy price shocks and drive economic growth through job training opportunities in the solar energy industry.”

GRID Alternatives Colorado is the leading installer of low-income rooftop and community solar in the state. GRID Alternatives Colorado worked for more than two years to build a coalition of stakeholder supporters to promote the low-income solar programs adopted in this settlement agreement. Nationally, GRID Alternatives is a leading voice in equitable access to solar energy and a leading partner in the White House’s Clean Energy Savings for All Americans initiative.

EOC Helps Senior Recover from Horrific Car Accident

Written by Peggy Hofstra | November 15, 2016

 

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One minute, 67-year-old Marie was driving north on Interstate 25 in mid-day Denver traffic. The next, she was in a 360-degree spin after veering to avoid being sideswiped by another driver.  Her car smashed into a retaining wall, recoiled, and careened around another 90 degrees before slamming into the wall again.

“I thought I was going to die,” she said. “It hit me to the core. It was so traumatic, horrible.”

Suffering from a severe concussion and the emotional aftershock of the accident, Marie then contracted pneumonia. “I was just vulnerable to anything at that point,” she added.

Although she was fortunate to have medical and auto insurance, the bills for co-payments started flooding in and her fixed income was strained beyond limit. She experienced neck and back pain, blinding headaches and debilitating dizziness for months and had to quit her part-time work as a hair stylist.

“Pretty soon I was so broke,” she said. “I had no money for living expenses. I made a minimum payment to Xcel Energy and set up a payment arrangement. I had never been late on a payment in 16 years, but one thing led to another.”

Panicked and on the verge of having her home energy shut off, Marie found help. Energy Outreach Colorado paid the overdue portion of her energy bill – bringing some light into this darkest period in her life.

“I’m so very grateful for the help,” she said. “I realize that there are good human beings behind all of this and I totally appreciate the people that contributed to help me.”

 

Energy Outreach salutes Veterans and provides helping hand when needed

Written by Peggy Hofstra | November 10, 2016

 

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Kevin, a distinguished US Army veteran with seven tours of duty under his belt, returned to his Colorado home with hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder. A husband and father, he began working with the Army Wounded Warrior Program to find work and make use of the GI Bill to go to college to provide for his family. But as he was still getting his plans off the ground, his family received notice that their home energy was about to be discontinued. Thanks to contributions from our caring supporters, Energy Outreach Colorado was proud to offer a helping hand and pay the overdue portion of this veteran’s home energy bill.

On Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day -- and every day, Energy Outreach Colorado salutes the brave men and women of the armed forces for their dedication and contributions to our national security. Thank you for your service, members of the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force and the Coast Guard. EOC and our supporters are humbled to help veterans like Kevin and his family as they rebuild their lives here in Colorado.

 

EOC Energy Efficiency Improvements Re-Energizing Denver American Indian Center

Written by Peggy Hofstra | November 08, 2016

For more than 25 years, Four Winds American Indian Center has served as the heart of Denver's Native American culture, traditions and politics. Housed in an historic 100-year-old former Lutheran church, the center is a popular meeting place and community gathering site as well as a have for low-income and underserved Native American youth, elders, disabled and homoeless. The aged, weather-beaten facility recently underwent an energy efficiency overhaul through the Nonprofit Energy EFficiency Program (NEEP) managed by Energy Outreach Colorado.

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"These changes have brought new life to this facility and enabld us to expand its use," said Glenn Morris, council member and facility caretaker. "Previously, we had to close down many of our activities in the winter because it was too cold and we couldn't afford the utility bills."

The purpose of NEEP is to lower the energy costs of nonprofits so they can invest more in the services they provide to their clients and communities. This is one way that Energy Outreach Colorado supports the needs of low-income Coloradans.

The $24,000 Four Winds project included the installation of roof insulation, weather stripping, a new hot water heater and furnace, a gas stove, a programmable thermostat, efficient lighting and low-flow faucet aerators. Funding was provided by EOC, Xcel Energy and the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships. Estimated energy cost savings are about $3,000 a year.

The new stove has been an enormous help for us to host events where we feed members of our community," Morris said. "These changes have inspired our members to have greater pride and a greater sense of collective ownership in the building."

Pictured above, representatives from Four Winds, EOC and Group 14 Engineering inspect damaged windows.

Below, Glenn Morris checks off upgrades in the Four Winds kitchen.

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Mark Your Calendars – LEAP Opens for Applications on November 1

Written by Peggy Hofstra | October 31, 2016

 

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Beginning Nov. 1, Coloradans can submit applications for federally-funded energy assistance through the state’s Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP). Energy Outreach Colorado works closely with LEAP to help all Coloradans afford home energy, and suggests that households needing help affording home energy first apply to LEAP.

“Any household that qualifies for LEAP should take advantage of that assistance first, since it is funded through a federal block grant appropriated by Congress and available to any applicant that meets the requirements,” said Enrique Hernandez, EOC’s energy assistance manager. “That way, EOC’s limited funding that is raised through private contributions can help more Colorado families and seniors who don’t qualify for LEAP or need additional help.”

For information about applying for assistance through LEAP or Energy Outreach Colorado:

Call toll-free 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435)

For LEAP, go to https://sites.google.com/a/state.co.us/cdhs-leap/home

For EOC, go to http://www.energyoutreach.org/get-help/paying-your-energy-bill

LEAP - $45 million in energy assistance in Colorado between 11-2-2016 and 4-30-2017

Federally funded annually to all 50 states, U.S. territories and tribal governments for home heating assistance

One application per year accepted between 11/2 and 4/30

Managed by the State of Colorado and counties

Applications can be emailed, faxed, mailed or delivered

Eligibility – U.S. citizen or legal resident of Colorado, pay heating costs to an energy provider or rent includes heating costs, gross monthly household income is within guidelines

Established in 1981

EOC - $8 million in statewide energy assistance between 10-1-2016 and 9-30-2017

Privately funded through individual and organizational donors

One application per year accepted, any time of year

Funds distributed through community agencies that accept applications and approve bill payments (EOC does not directly accept applications)

Established as an independent, private nonprofit in 1989 to supplement LIHEAP funding for Coloradans and provide protection against cuts in federal funding

 

 

Weatherization Assistance Program turning 40!

Written by The Colorado Energy Office | October 26, 2016

On Oct. 30, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), administered by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), celebrates 40 years of providing free energy efficiency services to the state's most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, disabled, and families with young children. The services provided through the CEO WAP help address household energy burden (the amount of household income spent on energy costs) experienced by low-income households statewide.

10-26GaryYarasmThe CEO works with a network of local agencies, including Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), to deliver weatherization services to low-income households throughout the state. EOC provides weatherization services to multifamily buildings, working closely with the CEO to reduce energy burden for those that need it the most – households that pay 4 percent or more of income on energy bills.

Since 1976, the state's WAP has played a significant role reducing energy costs for low-income households by conducting energy audits, replacing insulation and sealing homes at no cost to residents. Weatherization assistance is available to single-family homes, mobile homes and multifamily units for both homeowners and renters. Since 2012, the CEO WAP has served 14,173 eligible households across every county in the state. Installed improvements have saved clients more than $6.7 million on their energy bills, more than 4.1 million therms of natural gas, and more than 20.5 million kWh of electricity.  

This year, the program combined community solar and rooftop PV offerings with weatherization services to comprehensively reduce household energy costs. The program serves approximately 3,000 Colorado households each year and residents save on average $200-$500 annually on utility bills. Colorado is proud to be a national leader in developing and implementing holistic energy burden reduction solutions, and the CEO WAP looks forward to another year of reducing the heavy energy burden on qualified citizens in every county of the state.

For more information about the CEO WAP or to find the agency that provides services in your county, click here.   

Pictured, Gary Yara setting up a blower door test to measure energy efficiency. 

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