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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 23, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich’s Keep Warm Illinois campaign receives $500,000 matching grant from Northern Illinois Energy Project
Funds will help state pay for 55,000 energy conservation kits to help low-income families lower heating bills by as much as 30 %

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the Northern Illinois Energy Project (NIEP) will provide a $500,000 matching grant to the Keep Warm Illinois campaign. The grant will enable the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to pay for and distribute 55,000 Home Energy Conservation Kits free of charge to low-income families across the state.  Weatherization can reduce heating costs by as much as 30 percent.
 
“With record natural gas prices, Illinois households will face skyrocketing home heating costs this winter. The grant from the Northern Illinois Energy Project will allow us to help 55,000 more households cut their heating bills,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “This new funding will go a long way toward helping the most vulnerable households in Illinois stay warm this winter and for many winters to come.”
 
Items in the kits include low-wattage fluorescent light bulbs, weather stripping, rope caulking, plastic window insulation and energy saving tips. If residents follow the home weatherization recommendations, which can also be found on the Keep Warm Illinois website, such as caulking windows and doors, increasing insulation in their attics, sealing electrical outlets and purchasing energy efficient appliances, they can save as much as 30 percent a year in energy costs.
 
By bringing their heating costs down, a homeowner may prevent their utility services from being disconnected, which can be a dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situation, especially to seniors, young families and those suffering from significant health complications.
 
“We're pleased to join with Governor Blagojevich and the Keep Warm Illinois campaign in helping families save money on their energy bills," said David Kolata, Executive Director of the Citizen Utility Board, a partner in the Northern Illinois Energy Project.  “With utility prices rising rapidly, energy conservation has never been more important than it is right now, and these energy kits couldn't come at a better time.”

“In these times of rising energy costs, the importance of energy conservation is highlighted.  We in public service must strive to help citizens struggling with huge heating bills this winter, and this program strives to address that need,” said Richard A. Devine, Cook County State’s Attorney.
 
In October, Gov. Blagojevich launched the Keep Warm Illinois campaign, a multi-agency, comprehensive effort to help families reduce their heating bills by conserving energy and weatherizing their homes. For more information, visit the Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov) or the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM).
 
The Northern Illinois Energy Project (NIEP) is a partnership of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), an Illinois non-profit utility consumer advocacy group, the City of Chicago, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.  NIEP was created to develop and administer innovative programs to promote energy conservation and reduce electricity costs for residential customers of Commonwealth Edison (ComEd).  In addition to NIEP, the Keep Warm Illinois campaign has also partnered with Clear Channel Radio in Chicago, the United Way of Illinois and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
 
HFS will distribute the kits to low-income households through its network of 35 local community action agencies that administer the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP). 
 
HFS has trained local agency staff to conduct consumer energy savings workshops for interested residents.  Participants are learning how energy is used in the home and energy saving strategies so they can reduce their utility bills by better managing their energy use.  The workshops include presentations, handouts, and a question and answer period.
 
Some Helpful Keep Warm Illinois Weatherization Tips
 
·        Make sure that your home is adequately sealed.  Look for any leaks around doors and windows that could let the heat escape and allow cold air into your home.  Use caulking, weatherstripping, and storm windows to reduce heat loss.  As an alternative, you can also use plastic sheeting to cover the windows on the inside, which is available from local hardware or home improvement stores.  An adequately sealed home will provide energy savings and a comfortable environment for the homeowner and their family.
 
·        Keep your furnace operating efficiently.  Have your heating or cooling equipment checked each season by a qualified technician to make sure it is operating properly. A properly operating furnace can make a great impact on how much extra money you spend on your utility bills.  Also make sure you have the appropriate furnace size for your home.
 
·        Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees.  For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-to 70-degree range you’ll save an average of 3 percent on heating costs.  Wear warm clothing like a sweater and set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower during the day and evening, health permitting.  Open drapes and shades on the sunny side of your house to help warm the home during the day.  Close drapes and shades at night to cut heat loss.
 
·          Save as much hot water as possible because water heating is usually the second largest part of your energy bill.  Use cold water when washing clothes and take a five-minute shower instead of a bath to reduce water use.  Insulate the water heater tank and hot water pipes so heat won’t escape.  Turn down the temperature when using the hot water; it should be no hotter than 120 or 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  Also, fix any leaky faucets, install water saving showerheads, and take showers instead of baths.
 
Northern Illinois Energy Project
 
NIEP is also involved in projects geared toward promoting energy conservation: the Residential Lighting Program that was developed to increase the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and to raise awareness that these light bulbs save utility costs and use less energy.  The CFLs will be available at three Chicago-area retailers for $1 per bulb, a 75 percent discount off the normal price for these products and they will be provided to neighborhood stores where most light bulbs are sold; the Homeowners’ Energy Conservation Program, which encourages homeowners and developers to incorporate energy conservation into their rehab and home improvement projects; and two School Education Programs still in development that teach children about energy conservation and give students the tools to make their homes, schools and communities more energy efficient.
 
NIEP is funded through a legal settlement with ComEd of several regulatory cases.  A portion of the settlement funds was dedicated to the design and implementation of energy efficiency programs under the auspices of the founding NIEP partners.
 
Gov. Blagojevich’s comprehensive Keep Warm Illinois initiatives include:
 
The Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov) offers various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, a web-based tool to conduct a home energy audit, links to energy assistance programs and other resources.  The Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM) is also available as another resource for Illinois residents to learn how to save energy and get energy assistance.  
 
Warming Centers and Clothing Drives.  State facilities are now available as warming centers to offer Illinoisans a place to keep warm during the day if they choose to turn down their thermostat to reduce their home heating costs.  The list of warming centers locations is available at the Keep Warm Illinois website (www.keepwarm.illinois.gov) or at the Keep Warm Illinois hotline (1-877-411-WARM).
 
Energy Savings Workshops.  In addition to the workshops being announced today, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has partnered with community colleges across the state to hold workshops that offer important information on how people can improve the efficiency of their homes. At these workshops, Illinois residents will have access to information from energy conservation experts on how to reduce overall energy costs.
 
Winter Assistance Days.  The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is working with Congressional, state, and local leaders to organize a series of Winter Assistance events throughout Illinois where low-income families can apply for the state’s energy assistance programs and receive free energy savings kits.  
 
Illinois Energy Efficient Affordable Housing Construction Program.  The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has grants available to non-profit housing developers that include energy efficient building practices in the rehab or construction of affordable housing units.  These building practices often bring energy savings between 50 % and 75 %.  
 
Winter Storm Preparation. Illinois experiences five severe winter storms each year, on average. Nearly 80 people in the United States die from winter storms and extreme cold every year, which is more than the fatalities due to tornadoes.  The hazards posed by winter storms and extreme cold can be catastrophic.  So, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is offering a Winter Storm Preparation manual that includes important information on actions to take now that will increase resident’s chances of surviving winter storms and extreme cold. The manual can be found on the Keep Warm Illinois website.
 
Senior Safety.  If seniors lower their thermostats to reduce heating bills they can put themselves at risk of developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops dangerously low. They are at an increased risk especially if they take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition and who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.  The Department of Aging recommends that seniors set their thermostats no lower than 65 degrees as well as other safety tips to help Illinois seniors prepare for winter.

Keep Warm Illinois Leadership Summit. The Governor invited over 50 statewide leaders from the consumer advocacy, social service, business, and philanthropic communities to meet at a Keep Warm Illinois summit in November.  The group recommended ways the private sector could join with government to help everyone in Illinois conserve energy and stay warm and safe this winter.



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