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Power Talk Newsletter from Central Hudson

TOP STORY: EFFICIENCY TAX CREDITS RETURN

Storm Work

Utility group hails Central Hudson.
Three-peat »
Merger

Parties submit settlement.
$50M for customers »
Innovation

Ideas save money, help environment.
7 finalists »
Safety

Bolster home's safety in basement.
10 Tips »
Year in Review

A historic period for Central Hudson.
Timeline »

ALSO: President's Q&A | Central Hudson gives $712,000 | Three win $100 gift certificates

Federal tax credits reinstated retroactively

The American Taxpayer Relief Act passed into law at the beginning of 2013 includes provisions for federal tax credits of up to $500 on certain energy efficiency upgrades you made to your home in 2012, or will make in 2013.

The tax credits can potentially be used in addition to many of the energy efficiency incentives Central Hudson offers, such as our rebates for heat pump water heaters, energy efficient central air conditioners, and air-source heat pumps.

For additional analysis and information about these tax credits, visit the Tax Incentives Assistance Project website, see this Forbes news article, and consult a professional accountant.

 


Q:I live on a modest income. With fluctuating food, fuel and medical costs, paying all of my household bills is sometimes a challenge. Are there any special programs that can help me with my energy costs?

A: Central Hudson, New York State and the Federal government offer several programs and arrangements to help people who could use a hand with their energy costs. Here are some programs that may be able to help you:

Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP): HEAP is a public program administered by the Department of Social Services. It offers substantial grants based on household size and monthly income to subsidize the cost of heating your home in cold-weather months. Central Hudson customers who receive a HEAP benefit toward their account will also be issued a credit of $11 per month on their Central Hudson bill.

Powerful Opportunity Program (POP): POP is a Central Hudson program that helps eligible customers pay off their past-due balance while providing a monthly billing discount from $50 to $225 to help the customer stay current on their account. Click here to learn more about the qualifications, requirements and benefits of POP.

The Good Neighbor Fund: For more than 25 years, Central Hudson's Good Neighbor Fund has been helping customers who have exhausted all other forms of assistance. It's funded by voluntary contributions from our employees and customers, and those donations are matched dollar-for-dollar by Central Hudson's stockholders. The Salvation Army partners with Central Hudson to administer this program. Customers can contribute to the Good Neighbor Fund by adding an extra, whole-dollar amount of $1 to $10 each time they pay their bill.

Deferred Payment Agreements: We understand that sometimes people run into tough times financially and must contend with unexpected costs, income shortfalls or both. When this happens, Central Hudson is willing to work with you to help get your past-due balance paid off over time. If this sounds like it might be right for you, call us at (845) 452-2700. One of our customer service representatives will work with you to develop a payment plan that's in line with your budget.

Budget Billing: Budget Billing is a good Central Hudson program for anyone who is concerned about fluctuations in their energy bill and could benefit from receiving a consistent, monthly bill that's insulated from seasonal market supply price and energy demand fluctuations. With Budget Billing, your Central Hudson bill moves from every-other-month to a monthly cycle. Payments are uniform for 11 months of the year. The bill for the 12th month includes a plus or minus adjustment based on your actual energy usage for the year.

In addition to these assistance programs, Central Hudson maintains an organizational focus on keeping down costs. We do so through embracing innovation (which you can read about in this edition of PowerTalk); by incorporating Lean Six Sigma principles and training to help us continuously improve and operate more efficiently as a company; and by committing to cost control. These measures have saved customers millions of dollars in recent years and help offset rising materials costs, taxes, and other expenses.

You can also take steps to reduce your cost of energy by using it more efficiently. Visit our SavingsCentral website for simple, low-cost, effective energy efficiency tips.

Central Hudson, Fortis file agreement

Crews from Fortis-owned Canadian Niagara Power make repairs to help restore power to Central Hudson customers during the restoration effort after Hurricane Sandy.

Nearly $50 million to fund customer and community benefits; a one-year electric and natural gas customer delivery rate freeze; and customer protections, including the continuation of Central Hudson as a stand-alone utility company, are cornerstones of a “Settlement Agreement” filed with the New York State Public Service Commission regarding the acquisition of Central Hudson by Fortis Inc.

“This Settlement Agreement provides multiple and substantive benefits to our customers and the communities we serve,” said Steven V. Lant, Chairman of the Board and President of CH Energy Group, Central Hudson's parent company. “The proposed terms also retain substantial autonomy for Central Hudson, allowing us to continue our mission of serving our customers well, while providing opportunities to improve service through a close association with the Fortis family of utility companies. We are pleased and excited to have reached this step toward finalizing the transaction with Fortis.”

“Fortis worked closely with management of Central Hudson through this thorough regulatory approval process and has gained increased knowledge about the utility’s operating philosophy and the regulatory oversight requirements in New York State,” said Stan Marshall, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fortis Inc. “This Settlement Agreement will provide tangible benefits to Central Hudson’s customers and will strengthen the utility’s ability to meet the energy needs of its current and future customers.”

The Settlement Agreement will moderate future customer rate increases by providing $35 million to cover expenses that normally would be recovered in customer rates, e.g., significant restoration expenses related to Hurricane Sandy, the October 2011 snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene, and other similar expenses. Central Hudson customers will save a guaranteed $9.25 million over five years resulting from the elimination of costs now incurred as a public company. Additionally, the agreement requires that customer delivery rates be frozen until July 1, 2014, and the establishment of a $5 million Customer Benefit Fund for economic development and low-income assistance programs for communities and residents of the Mid-Hudson Valley.

 


Central Hudson honored for Sandy work

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association of electric companies representing 70 percent the U.S. electric power industry, has honored Central Hudson for its recovery efforts in response to Hurricane Sandy. It was the unprecedented third consecutive year that Central Hudson earned the prestigious award.

"Central Hudson ...
is a great example for the nation's electric power industry."

Thomas Kuhn,
Edison Electric Institute President

“Getting the lights back on quickly and safely is never easy following these natural disasters,” said EEI President Thomas Kuhn. “It takes strong commitment, advanced planning, and great execution. Central Hudson responded with all three; they’re a great example for the nation’s electric power industry, and I congratulate them.”

Central Hudson President James P. Laurito praised the work of all involved.

“Damage by Hurricane Sandy was significant. Crews and employees, together with mutual aid and contract line and tree trimming crews from Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Florida, addressed more than 1,800 distinct cases of damage,” said Laurito. “Service was restored to nearly half of those affected in one day, and to 90 percent in three days, exceeding our goal by one day. Full restoration was completed in less than one week.

“As with the previous recognitions, this award is a reflection of our entire community,” added Laurito. “We are truly honored and proud to serve the communities of the Mid-Hudson Valley.”

After service restoration was substantially completed within Central Hudson's service area, Central Hudson assisted neighboring utilities in Manhattan, Long Island and Sullivan, Putnam and Westchester counties, as well as in New Jersey.

 


Employee innovations lauded

Central Hudson took a leadership role in researching and developing "Explorer," a robotic gas pipeline inspection device that helps improve the safety and reliability of natural gas systems. Pictured here are Central Hudson and Pipetel Technologies personnel preparing Explorer for a launch in mid-2012.

Eleven employee finalists were recognized in January for implementing ideas that provide customer benefits by improving service, reducing costs and/or helping the environment as part of Central Hudson's fifth annual Innovation Awards program.

“Our employees have many years of combined experience, education and training, both in their jobs and within our industry,” said James. P. Laurito, President of Central Hudson. “The Innovation program encourages employees to use this knowledge to creatively find solutions to problems, perform tasks more efficiently, or utilize technology in ways not thought of before to improve systems or operations,” he said.

Each year innovative employee ideas are submitted for review by an internal committee. The committee reviews each submission and recognizes a group of finalists, which for 2012 included:

  • Director of Meter Services Brett Arteta and Meter Foreman Mark Bailey for utilizing a simple signal booster, initially designed for common cell phones, that easily and cost-effectively improves the reliability of meter data collection.
  • Substation Foreman George Dudar, for his immediate, urgent response and use of common household items to quickly, effectively and safely clean electrical components at a substation located on the Hudson River shoreline submerged under brackish water during Hurricane Sandy, avoiding costly repairs and potential service interruptions that would have otherwise occurred.
  • Natural Gas Mechanic Welder Harold VanEtten, who developed a tool that significantly reduces the time to dismantle and reassemble gas meters to clear natural gas lines of occasional water blockages, speeding recovery of gas service to customers.
  • Systems Specialist Project Leader Raymond A’Brial, Engineer Neal Moriarty and Senior Engineer Donald Vanden Broek, who developed a method of securely transmitting high-speed data communications between equipment installed as part of a smart-grid project by utilizing a vendor’s proprietary non-routable protocol, improving data security and reducing costs.
  • Section Leader Engineer David Merte, for overseeing Central Hudson’s lead role as a member of a coalition of utilities, the regional natural gas association and a manufacturer to develop and deploy "Explorer," a robot that dramatically improves the ability of utilities to perform internal inspections of natural gas pipelines. The technology has far-reaching capabilities to improve the safety and cost-effectiveness of pipeline inspections across the nation.
  • Director of Customer Accounting Lisa Cerone and Systems Specialist Project Leader Suzette Mazurowski, for successfully leading a team of Central Hudson employees in developing a new computer application to streamline the time-intensive process of preparing the accounts of customers who choose to receive energy from independent marketers.
  • Environmental Specialist Karen Lo, for improving Central Hudson’s environmental footprint by utilizing a service to recycle waste transformer oil into usable oil products. Previously, the used oil was shipped to a facility and burned for energy recovery.

In all, 42 Central Hudson employees were nominated for projects that received consideration for 2012 Innovation Awards.



Difficulties due to Hurricane Sandy?

Customers impacted by Hurricane Sandy who are experiencing difficulty in paying their Central Hudson bill should contact our Call Center so that we can address your needs. Call (845) 452-2700 or, for calls from outside the 845 area code only, 1-800-527-2714 to speak with a Customer Service Representative.

 


Central Hudson, employees give $712,000

Central Hudson employee-volunteers break for a photo while helping to perform needed maintenance at the Poughkeepsie Day Nursery during the 2012 Dutchess Day of Caring event, in association with the United Way.

Central Hudson, its employees and the shareholders of its parent company, CH Energy Group, Inc., provided more than $712,000 in support of local not-for-profit agencies and organizations that provide human services and small business support in 2012, and have provided more than $5 million in such support since 2005.

“Our employees strongly support non-profit organizations that serve our communities, and together with Central Hudson and our shareholders contribute each year in many ways,” said Denise D. VanBuren, Corporate Secretary & Vice President of Public Relations. “Just as important as their financial contributions, Central Hudson employees donate their time and talents, and volunteer thousands of hours each year to many worthwhile causes here in the Hudson Valley to make our region a better place to live and work,” said VanBuren.

Information about the volunteerism of Central Hudson employees can be found here, on the company's website.

“We’re proud to continue our decades-long tradition of supporting the region’s non-profit agencies. We’re especially pleased that our commitment will continue following our proposed merger with Fortis,” said VanBuren. “Local service organizations work to improve our quality of life and to protect the health and well-being of our region. As a community we depend upon one another, and we’re proud to do our part.”


10 ways to boost safety via the basement


Electrical problems cause more than 51,000 home fires each year in the United States. The basement – often the nerve center of a home's electrical system and domain of heavy duty appliances like furnaces, clothes dryers and water heaters – is too often overlooked when homeowners assess and maintain their home's safety.

Here are 10 suggestions to improve the safety of your home by focusing on the basement and items often contained within:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, including the basement, where fuel-burning appliances like furnaces are located.

  • Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends having a licensed electrician replace standard circuit breakers with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Arcing occurs when an electrical current jumps between wires, and is one of the most common causes of electrical house fires in the U.S. Traditional circuit breakers are not designed to recognize arc faults, but AFCIs are.

  • Never run an electrical generator in an enclosed space, including your basement. Fuel-burning generators emit carbon monoxide. Running one indoors can be akin to leaving a car running in an enclosed garage. Likewise for other fuel-burning equipment such as gas-powered sump pumps.

  • Have your heating equipment cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified HVAC professional.

  • To prevent fire, clean your dryer's lint filter after each load. Clean your dryer vent, on average, once per year or more often if you run multiple loads per day. Check the external exhaust vent with the dryer running to make sure air is flowing out freely. A weak flow of air at the external vent can indicate a clog, which is a major fire hazard.

  • Never go into a basement with standing water in it unless you are sure the electricity is off.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the basement. Opt for an extinguisher with a Class ABC label, which can be used on most home fires.

  • Reduce your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to guard against scalding. Significant energy efficiency savings are an added bonus.

  • Keep areas around furnaces, boilers, clothes dryers and other heat sources free of combustible items and debris such as cardboard, rags, paper, paint thinners and flammable solvents.

  • Some older brass gas connectors (gas connectors are corrugated metal tubes used to connect gas appliances in your home to fuel gas supply pipes) have a serious flaw in how their tubing was joined to their end pieces. Over time, the end pieces can separate from the tubing, and cause a serious gas leak, explosion, or fire. To our knowledge, these dangerous uncoated brass connectors have not been made for more than 20 years, but many are still in use. The older these connectors get the greater the possibility of failure. Check your natural gas equipment in your basement, behind your stove, and elsewhere. Any uncoated brass connector should be replaced immediately with a new stainless steel connector. If a connector is compliant with ASNI Z21.24 – the current standard for gas appliance connectors – it should have ASNIZ21.24 imprinted on the nut. Gas connectors also wear out from too much moving, bending or corrosion. They should always be replaced whenever the appliance is replaced or moved from its location.



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Gift certificate winners announced

Central Hudson Consumer Outreach Representative Janet Entrekin, right, presents a $100 Central Hudson gift certificate to Rhinebeck resident Patti Downey.

Customers Patti Downey, Karl Sprossel, and Jeff Rockwell each won $100 Central Hudson gift certificates after purchasing gift certificates of at least $50 for fellow Central Hudson customers during the November-December 2012 promotional period. Thank you to all customers who participated. Remember, you can purchase a Central Hudson gift certificate for any customer who could use help paying their utility bill at any time of year. Just download and submit this form: http://bit.ly/a7mZPV, or call us at 845-452-2700.



2012: Central Hudson's Year in Review


From the announcement of plans to merge with Fortis Inc. to an award-winning restoration effort following Hurricane Sandy, 2012 was a landmark year in Central Hudson's history. Click here to see some of the company's major stories and events of 2012.

 

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Produced by the Corporate Communications Division
Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.
284 South Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY, 12601
www.CentralHudson.com

Send questions and comments about PowerTalk to ptesoro@cenhud.com or chayes@cenhud.com.