The Osage Municipal Utility’s Comprehensive DSM program has been heralded as one of the most effective DSM efforts ever. In large part, Weston D. Birdsall, Osage’s recently-retired General Manager, is to be credited to this exemplary DSM effort. Birdsall believed and proved that the citizens of a small community could collectively take responsibility for their energy use (both electric and gas) and profit! By marshalling the support from all members of the community, from schoolchildren to professionals, Osage’s success in terms of gross savings and the remarkably low costs of the savings, has yet to be replicated.
The Osage program was designed to reduce the utility bills of all customers to improve the economic well-being of the community. Its other purpose was to reduce the growth rate of electric peak demand to delay the need to expand its generating capacity. Both objectives were met, the town actually experienced three electricity rate reductions and the capacity additions are still not necessary. For a total cost of less $500,000 over eighteen years, Osage has been able to save some 92.4 GWh, 4 MW, and about 8 million therms of gas since 1974. Furthermore, 100% of OMU's customers have participated in the program, at an average cost of only about $100 per customer total, or just over $6 per customer per year!
The most unique element of the Osage effort is the positive relationship that the utility has built with its customers. Through a series of educational programs and successful DSM measures, OMU has earned the trust of its customers. Once the people in the community realized that the utility was trying to help them reduce their bills and save money, it became successively easier to implement programs and achieve high participation rates.
Not only was OMU successful in achieving its main goals but an indirect benefit of economic development was realized. By keeping rates relatively low and helping businesses and industries reduce their energy consumption the economic viability of these businesses was also increased. This not only helped businesses and industries expand but also attracted new ones. Thus, the Osage community has enjoyed a stable local economy and unemployment rates far below the national average.
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