Saving Energy and Money Through Increased Efficiency; Rebates Available For Old Appliances

From PPL Electric Utilities

Imagine 282,000 homes – ranches, split-levels, Colonials, even mansions. Houses as far as the eye can see.

Now imagine all those homes going completely off the grid for a year — as in, not using any electricity. Not running the dishwasher once. Not baking a single cake or loaf of bread. Not turning on the TV to watch a single Phillies, Eagles, Pirates or Steelers game.

That would be a pretty remarkable energy savings, wouldn’t you think?

Many people don’t know it, but that level of savings is actually happening every year in central and eastern Pennsylvania.

A quarter-million homes aren’t literally unplugging from the grid. But the homes and businesses in PPL Electric Utilities’ service area have reduced their energy use by more than 2.7 billion kilowatt-hours per year over the past seven-and-a-half years. That’s the same savings you’d get if about 282,000 houses didn’t use any power at all.

In case you’re wondering, that reduction in energy use translates to a financial savings of almost $300 million per year, based on 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s a pretty remarkable number as well.

Another noteworthy thing: At PPL Electric Utilities, we support the fact that people are using less electricity. In fact, we applaud it.

That comes as a surprise to some people too. After all, we’re in the business of delivering electricity. But, we recognize that using less energy is good for your wallet, and good for the environment.

In fact, those 2.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity that people aren’t using each year are being saved through energy efficiency programs offered by PPL. This includes rebates for heating and air conditioning equipment, insulation, smart thermostats, appliances, business lighting, business refrigeration equipment, food service equipment, compressed air systems, discounted LED bulbs we make available through retailers, and more.

Another example you might have heard of: We’ll haul away your old refrigerator for free and pay you $35, to make it easier for you to upgrade to a more energy-efficient appliance (Some conditions apply: For instance, the fridge has to still work. See the specific information and conditions on fridge recycling).

Additional information on residential efficiency programs as well as efficiency programs for businesses is also available.

If you’re among the people helping to make a big difference in energy use, we congratulate you. It makes sense to save.

If you haven’t really thought about energy efficiency, now’s a great time to start. It doesn’t take a major investment to make your savings start to add up.

That 2.7 billion kilowatt-hours of saved energy per year is a pretty impressive number. But it’s really just a start.

Attendees Learn About State’s New Medical Marijuana Law, How to Apply it to Workplace Drug Policy

A large crowd of area professionals, including those that work in human resources, security, administration, small business owners and more, attended a lunch seminar on Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana law and how it relates to workplace drug policy on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Columbia Mall. The workshop, which was organized by the Chamber and PA CareerLink Columbia/Montour Counties and sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities, featured Juan Mayo, a workers’ compensation health & safety training specialist from the PA Department of Labor & Industry. Lunch for the event was provided by Steph’s Subs

Among the topics of the presentation were the basics of the law, which allows medical marijuana to be prescribed by a licensed physician for a limited number of conditions. Smoking of marijuana, for medical or recreational purposes, remains illegal in Pennsylvania. The differences between THC and CBD, two of the chemical components of marijuana, were also discussed, as was a clarification on the differences between hemp and marijuana. Most importantly, some guidelines and suggestions for how employers should accommodate medical marijuana in the workplace were also presented. Employers should be able to treat medical marijuana just like any other drug that is prescribed to an employee for a specific condition and could have side effects that could make it difficult or unsafe to do certain jobs, such as operate heavy machinery, etc. It was recommended that employers, if they don’t already do so, designed any specific positions as safety-sensitive, which makes disclosure of any medical prescriptions that could affect one’s ability to satisfactorily perform a job necessary on the part of the employee. 

For those that may have been interested in the seminar but were unable to attend, the entire presentation, which runs just over an hour, can viewed below or on the Chamber’s YouTube channel. 

What HR Services Does Your Business Need?

Members often call the Chamber with human resource questions related to policies, compliance with state and federal regulations, employee management issues, etc. Recognizing that many small and medium-sized organizations do not have dedicated HR staff, the Chamber is exploring a program that would offer expanded resources. While members can currently contact ChamberChoice for some issues, this potential bundled program could provide access to forms, on-call access for quick questions, or representation in more in-depth issues.
 
The Chamber is working with local human resource consultants to determine interest in a group program. Members are asked to provide their input on their HR needs by completing a brief multiple-choice, 12-question survey by Wednesday, Nov. 14 (we estimate it shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to complete it). Based on the level of interest, we will move forward in developing a program. As a thank you for your time, all members that click on the link above and complete the survey by Nov. 14 will be entered into a drawing to win a free month of ads for their business or organization in E-Biz. The winner will be notified after the deadline to complete the survey. 

Thank you for your time.

28th Annual Economic Survey Shows Boost in Employer Optimism, While Workforce Needs, Healthcare and Taxes Continue to Burden Employers

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The PA Chamber unveiled the results of its 28th Annual Economic Survey last week, which showed record high optimism among employers in terms of their confidence with the direction of Pennsylvania’s economy and their willingness to invest in their facilities and workers.  However, a jobs skills gap was listed for the first time as the biggest hurdle facing their businesses.  Also, ongoing concerns about the state’s tax structure and rising healthcare costs were among the leading issues they cited as barriers to economic opportunity.

According to the survey of 650 employers, job creators listed difficulties finding skilled and qualified employees to fill open positions as the biggest problem facing their companies.  This represents a stark increase over last year and has officially reached an historic high as business owners’ “top of mind” issue.  Given this rising concern and the increased attention to this problem, the PA Chamber is proud to include as part of its mission the “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative that is aimed at closing the skills gap in Pennsylvania by educating students, their families, educators and workers about family-sustaining jobs in the skilled trades and other employment trends in the Commonwealth. Visit StartTheConversationHere.com to learn more about this dynamic program and the PA Chamber’s ongoing efforts to tackle the skills gap in Pennsylvania.

As to other leading employer concerns in the survey, the PA Chamber remains committed to working with lawmakers to reduce tax burdens and address rising healthcare costs, which continue to increase despite efforts from the Trump administration to expand healthcare access. “We’re working to combat rising healthcare costs, which employers have cited as a major hurdle over the last ten years of economic surveys,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr said in a press release announcing the survey results. “Expanding access to affordable healthcare coverage should be a universal goal, which is why it’s so unfortunate that the state Insurance Department is resisting allowing many small businesses to take advantage of the new federal rule on Association Health Plans.  The goal of these plans is to achieve savings within the health care system and provide Pennsylvania employers with solutions to meet the needs of their workforce.”

Standing out as a positive takeaway from this year’s survey was the considerable improvement in employers’ perception of Pennsylvania’s business climate.  A record high 40 percent of employers now say the economy has gotten better during the last 12 months, up sharply from 25 percent last year.  Moreover, 26 percent of employers rate Pennsylvania as “very” business friendly, up from 15 percent last year and also a record high.  However, when asked to cite the top issues that should top business advocates and lawmakers’ “to-do” lists, they overwhelmingly cited controlling healthcare costs (at 66 percent) and cutting business taxes (at 50 percent) as the top two priorities.

The 28th Annual Economic Survey was conducted in August 2018 by Susquehanna Polling and Research, a Harrisburg-based public opinion polling company. To review the survey, visit the PA Chamber’s website.  

State Budget Includes Funding for Jobseekers and Existing Employees

Gerald Oleksiak, PA Secretary of Labor & Industry, recently discussed workforce programs while touring the Sunbury CareerLink office and The Link mobile services unit.

The 2018-19 State budget includes $30 million for workforce development initiatives. Funding includes support for career exploration, entry-level job seekers, and those looking to enhance their skills. One goal of the initiative is to double the number of people in apprenticeship programs in Pennsylvania by 2025.

Gerald Oleksiak, Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry, provided an overview of PAsmart during a recent visit to the PA CareerLink office in Sunbury. Since the Apprenticeship and Training Office was established in 2016, the number of apprentices across the state has increased 27% to 16,000. In addition to $20 million for STEM career education, the budget includes $7 for apprenticeships and $3 million for industry partnerships. The United States lags significantly behind other countries, especially those in Europe, in the number of people in apprenticeships. 

Oleksiak also toured The Link, a mobile CareerLink services unit being piloted in the Central Susquehanna region. The Link provides access to job search services with staff assistance to rural areas. Jennifer Noll told her story to Secretary Oleksiak about how access to CareerLink services through The Link was life-changing in helping her get from an “unthinkable situation” to a job with the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit. Follow The Link on Facebook for a schedule of upcoming locations. 

Resources for people exploring careers and training, as well as entrepreneurs looking to start a business, are available online