The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) chose Midwest Energy from its 841 distribution cooperative members as the recipient of its 2012 National Community Service Award for Energy Efficiency at its recent 2012 Annual Meeting in San Diego. Midwest Energy was recognized for what NRECA termed “its innovative energy efficiency investment program, How$mart®”. The award was presented to Midwest Energy’s Board Chair, John Blackwell and President and General Manager, Earnie Lehman. Midwest Energy launched How$mart® in 2008 based on the idea that delivering energy efficiency should be considered as much a part of its utility services as delivering gas and electricity. According to Pat Parke, Vice President Customer Service, “The How$mart® program demonstrates that energy efficiency can be a viable part of our energy mix, along with renewable energy and conventional fuels.” Under the program, interested residential and business customers request a comprehensive energy audit that results in a proposed conservation plan with recommended improvements. Customers can choose the contractor to make the improvements, which are then paid for by Midwest Energy. The customer forgoes part of the savings on future utility bills until the cost of the improvements is recovered. As Michael Volker, Director Regulatory and Energy Services said, “How$mart is making energy efficiency happen where it hasn’t happened in the past. It’s about tearing down the barriers preventing energy efficiency investment and making lives better for our customer-owners.” To date Midwest Energy has invested over $4 million in almost 700 How$mart® projects. For every five homes completed enough electricity is saved to power a sixth home. For every three homes completed enough gas is saved to heat a fourth home. How$mart® has previously received four national awards, but as Earnie Lehman said at the NRECA awards ceremony, “this is the recognition we appreciate most, coming as it does from our industry peers across the country”. Midwest Energy, Inc. is a customer-owned cooperative serving 49,000 electric customers and 42,000 gas customers in 41 counties of central and western Kansas.