Updated May 17, 2016
Members in Tideland Electric Membership Cooperative, the electric company that powers Ocracoke, have until May 22 to sign up for Operation Round-up, which helps those struggling with their electric bills.
Members who sign up for this program will be entered into a drawing for a $1,000 credit on their electric bill, said Rachel O’Neal, the Ocracoke office manager.
The program simply rounds customers’ bills up to the next dollar, and O’Neal said the maximum amount a customer would donate would be $11.88.
These round-up donations are tax deductible, she said. Customers may also give a one-time donation to the program to be eligible for the prize.
This program assists people who can’t pay their electric bill for whatever reason.
“We had someone living without lights,” O’Neal explained recently. This was a family up the beach, and the father took his wife and daughter to work while the electricity was off.
“One of their neighbors paid the bill,” she said, which alerted Tideland to the situation, and Tideland added some credits to their accounts and restored electricity.
“A lot of time people won’t call us themselves because they are embarrassed,” she said. “If you know someone in that situation, you can call and talk to us.”
In addition, islanders (and island property owners) have until June 1 to sign up to receive free Ecobee thermostats as part of their Microgrid Pilot Project.
These are thermostats that home or property owners control.
“You can set a range of temperatures,” O’Neal said.
In addition, the customer will not pay outright for the installation, but will add $5 to the customer’s monthly bill for one year, or $60. After the first year, customers who use the Ecobees will receive a $4 credit each month on their electric bill for as long as the program continues, said, Heidi Smith, Tideland spokesperson.
Smith also said that Tideland also can remotely control the devices if they need to get homes to consume less energy when the island is on generator power.
The units work only with homes that use heat pumps, electric furnaces, gas packs or have central AC, since thermostats control these devices, as well as wi-fi.
They aren’t used in homes with inverter (or min-split) units, which are units that either heat or cool.
Tideland is giving away the first 300 Ecobees for free. After that, islanders who want them will have to pay for them.
O’Neal said they’ve handed out only 84 so far.
To sign up, stop in to the Tideland office on Odd Fellows Road weekday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon, or contact Smith at 252-945-7891, or firstname.lastname@example.org.