Lewis County PUD
From left to right: Alicia Harmanson, LCPUD Energy Services Coordinator; Chase Buffington, Director of the Cispus Learning Center; Sue Sharples, Cispus Learning Center Office Administrator. Photo courtesy: Lewis County PUD

Submitted by Lewis County PUD

On Thursday, April 21, Public Utility District No. 1 of Lewis County (District) presented the Cispus Learning Center (Center) with a grant of $60,637.88 for the replacement of an aging electric boiler system with high-efficiency heat pumps. The grant award was a result of the Centralia Coal Transition Grants Weatherization Board (Weatherization Board) and the District’s continued partnership to fund energy efficiency improvements for area non-profit organizations, schools, and low-income customers.

“The energy efficiency funding we are able to provide is invaluable for the non-profit organizations in our community that provide important services to our customers,” said Tim Cournyer, President of the District’s Board of Commissioners. “The impacts the Cispus Learning Center has on our community’s youth is truly irreplaceable, and we are excited this funding will help continue the legacy of such a great organization.”

The District estimates energy savings for the project are well over 200,000 kilowatt-hours per year and demand reduction for the facility of nearly 100 kilowatts monthly, which is the equivalent to roughly enough energy to power 14 homes for an entire year. The energy savings make a big impact for the historic outdoor school, which has inspired countless Washington youths for generations. Chase Buffington, Director of the Cispus Learning Center, commented about the benefits the award has provided the Center by saying, “Grant awards like this truly allow us to be able to operate more efficiently, reduce our costs, and make a big difference for our students and staff. As we reduce our energy costs, it allows us to focus those dollars on improving the overall experience and making the operations of the facility more sustainable.”

The District’s partnership with the Weatherization Board has provided an opportunity for identifying and delivering energy efficiency improvements to the local community since 2017 when the first grant award was received. In 2020, the Weatherization Board awarded the District $1.2 million for a multi-year approach to directly fund energy efficiency projects for non-profits, schools, and low-income customers.

“This funding has improved the lives of countless Lewis County residents, and not just with weatherization or heat pumps. These projects provide contractors work and economic activity beyond the recipient’s reduced energy bills,” said Alicia Harmanson, District Energy Services Coordinator. “For every heat pump installed there are contractors who are hiring employees and spending money in the community for materials and services. We are very pleased with the amount of impact we can create in the community through our partnership with the Weatherization Board.”

Lori Schmitt, Weatherization Board Chair, highlighted the benefits the partnership has provided the community by saying, “The partnership between the District and the Weatherization Board has been a great success that provides economic stimulation, which is exactly why the Coal Transition Funds were created in the first place. We hope to be able to continue our partnership to make meaningful impacts throughout the entire community.”

For information on the District’s grant program, please contact the District’s Energy Services department at 360.345.1493, or by email.

About Lewis County PUD

Lewis County PUD is a community-owned, locally governed utility providing power services and telecommunications infrastructure to approximately 33,000 customers throughout most of Lewis County and adjacent communities.

About Cispus Learning Center

The Cispus Learning Center is a 68-acre campus, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that provides a unique northwest outdoor learning environment for students. It is open 364 days a year to elementary, middle school and high school students for environmental and leadership education, for at-risk students using our challenge (ropes) course, and for any adult group supporting educational objectives.

About Centralia Coal Transition Grants Weatherization Board

TransAlta Centralia Board Funding, LLC (the “Centralia Coal Transition Grants”) provides grants to Lewis and South Thurston County businesses, nonprofit organizations and local governments in three areas: to improve energy efficiency; enhance worker retraining and economic development, and seed energy technology projects that improve our environment.

This grant program is funded by TransAlta USA to help the community as it transitions away from coal-fired electric power generation. It is the result of a historic agreement to phase out TransAlta’s coal-fired plant in Centralia, Washington.

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