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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY



In the mid-1980s, as the Bonneville Power Administration began to ramp up its commercial and industrial demand-side management activities, it recognized the need for a central source for detailed information on energy-efficient technologies. It sought to create a clearinghouse and after a competitive bid awarded the job to the Washington State Energy Office (WSEO). In 1990 WSEO established the Electric Ideas Clearinghouse (EIC, now known as the Energy Ideas Clearinghouse), a free information source for commercial and industrial energy projects in the Northwest.



The EIC has two primary services for utilities, engineers, designers, architects, and other energy professionals, as well as general energy consumers: a telephone/FAX hotline and a computer bulletin board (BBS). For the hotline (which is toll-free in the Northwest), WSEO’s initial response time to requests is typically under eight hours. To provide responses, WSEO staff, a network of engineers, librarians, energy specialists, and communication specialists, access an assortment of reference materials. The EIC (in combination with the WSEO library) has the largest energy library in the Northwest, and maintains seven consulting firms on a retainer basis.



The bulletin board is also toll-free in the Northwest and has recently extended its toll-free range thanks to new funding sources. Up to 28 people can access the system simultaneously and it is also linked with the Internet so that the EIC’s information can be accessed around the world. The BBS provides users with several services including E-mail, calendars of energy-related events, software libraries, discussion forums (some of which are private), job and resume listings, commercial energy codes, and other pertinent state and federal legislation. Currently new users are being added at a rate of 15-20 per day.



The Energy Ideas Clearinghouse provides an invaluable service in the Northwest and for the western states. While quantifying its effect is impossible, the Clearinghouse stands at the nexus of two concurrent revolutions: First, EIC is squarely positioned in the information revolution. Consumers in New York, for example, could just as easily access the Hotline and BBS as utility customers in Seattle. Second, EIC is clearly in line with the changing demand-side management paradigm. As utilities attempt to revamp their DSM programs -- shifting from direct customer incentives to a greater reliance on information -- the role of EIC and its importance in promoting customer-driven energy efficiency initiatives, will likely increase.

 

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