IBM grant to city aims to help residents cut utility bills
Nov 14, 2012 (Menafn - The Knoxville News-Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --A grant from IBM to the city of Knoxville is expected to help the area's less fortunate residents stay warm, lower their utility bills, and reduce the amount of money spent by various agencies and groups to subsidize utility bills.
Mayor Madeline Rogero announced Wednesday that IBM had awarded the city one of the corporation's Smarter Cities Challenge grants.
"We are thrilled to have been selected," the mayor said. "This is going to help us address the root causes of high utility bills, through weatherization and education. This is a systemic issue that has gone on for years."
Every year, agencies and groups such as Knoxville's Community Action Committee, the Knoxville Utilities Board, the Salvation Army, the Refuge and various churches pony up to help the area's less fortunate pay high utility bills.
Last year alone, five local organizations paid 3.3 million in emergency assistance for utility bills for low income residents, said Susanna Sutherland of the city's Office of Sustainability. This represented 9,670 households, averaging 339 per household.
None of that money was spent for preventive measures to make the homes in question more energy efficient or on teaching residents how to do so.
The grant application to IBM was written by Sutherland based on ideas developed by Michael Dunthorn of the city's homeless program and Becky Wade with the city's community development office.
Sutherland asked IBM to provide a team to develop a comprehensive way to track and measure the energy emergency services provided by the different groups, and find the most effective way to connect weatherization and energy education services to residents who receive emergency utility bill assistance.
The goal is to reduce the demand each year for emergency assistance with utility bills for low-income ratepayers, particularly those in older, inefficient buildings.
In 2013, IBM will send a six-person team to study the problem and recommend how best to address it. This service is worth an estimated 400,000.
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