Energy Adviser: Energy counselors plug savings



What do the Rotary Club, Fort Vancouver Regional Library, Vancouver Renters' Association, churches, neighborhood associations, and the AARP have in common? All have invited a Clark Public Utilities energy counselor to present useful tips and info through the utility's neighborhood speakers program.

Each year the utility gives dozens of presentations to local groups. "Summer is our slow time, so that's the best time for organizations to put in a request for an energy counselor presentation," said DuWayne Dunham, energy services supervisor at Clark Public Utilities. "We're able provide a general energy talk or give one on any energy topic of interest to a group."

A decade ago, the utility used to offer these presentations four times a year at its offices on Fort Vancouver Way and Mill Plain. "People had to come to us in the past," Dunham said. "We thought it might be better if we made it easier and came to them, so we started reaching out to neighborhood groups and other organizations in the county and offering to visit."

The energy counselors have even made presentations at Clark College's English as a Second Language classes. "Non-native English speakers are often hesitant to call our hotline with questions," Dunham said. "In a classroom they seem more comfortable speaking up and it's nice to be able to share tips and info on available rebates and incentives in person."

Clark Public Utilities speakers adapt their presentations to the interests of the audience. Depending on the group, a speaker can address residential energy-saving tips, rebate programs, small-business conservation advice, renewable energy, water conservation, as well as low-cost or no-cost ways to avoid energy waste.

Some organizations request presentations every year. The nonprofit Clark County Rental Association works to improve the quality and operation of the rental industry in Southwest Washington and every year an energy counselor stops by to refresh property owners and landlords on tips for cutting energy waste, reducing expenses and making properties more comfortable through energy-efficient upgrades.

This year, the energy counselors expect to offer about 20 presentations to groups around town, up from 16 last year. Most presentations are after business hours to make it easy for customers to attend. The counselors are assigned to different areas of the county and divide the presentations based on their territories, said Dunham. That way they can address neighborhoods that have a certain type of construction or age of home to make the presentation more meaningful. For example, the homes in Camas, Mount Vista and Hough each have different ages and styles so the focus of the tips and advice can be tailored to those types of neighborhoods.

Low-tech presentation

Usually organizations requesting a presentation provide a laptop to project a PowerPoint presentation. Nevertheless, sometimes things don't go as planned and the presenter must make the best of the situation. Dunham once went to an organization that requested an annual presentation, assuming they would provide the needed equipment as they had in the past. This time, it was just a room full of eager attendees and not a computer or projector in sight.

Fortunately, he brought one hard copy of the presentation with him. While going through the presentation, he made light of the situation, sadly apologizing to the group because they were missing the spectacular graphics that Steven Spielberg had personally created for him, as well as the rockin' soundtrack that Bruce Springsteen had written to accompany the presentation. The group chuckled at each mention and the low-tech presentation was a hit.

Clark Public Utilities offers several community programs, including talks and tours for schools on electricity, salmon and water conservation, on the utility's community page. To schedule a speaker, visit the Clark Public Utilities Web page at Or call 360-992-3268 at least two weeks before your group needs a speaker.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.