An Evanston resident who in the heat of summer signed up for CUB Energy Saver, a free online service that helps people slash their utility bills, is getting a big payoff just in time for the cold winter: free electricity.

Jennifer Bruyere, of Evanston, says she was shocked and surprised to win a special CUB Energy Saver drawing that covered her summer electricity expenses.

“Having that extra money really helped with the bills and the Christmas shopping, so that was a blessing,” the X-ray Technologist said.

CUB Energy Saver, www.CUBEnergySaver.com, created in a partnership between the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and New York City-based Efficiency 2.0, recommends hundreds of actions that have been helping families of all incomes slash their electric and natural gas bills by an average of $130 a year. What makes the service unique in the nation is a rewards program that allows people to track their actual energy savings and get shopping and restaurant discounts if they cut electricity use.

“CUB Energy Saver helps customers cut their utility bills, it gives them rewards for being energy efficient, and now it’s given an Evanston resident the gift of free electricity this holiday season,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “It pays to be energy efficient.”

To celebrate its one-year anniversary last June, CUB Energy Saver held a drawing for about 1,400 Illinois residents who joined the online service that month. The top prize was a summer of free electricity (June-August), up to $500. Bruyere’s name was among the 70 winners who recently received their prize money.

Bruyere, whose summer bills totaled $185 for her family’s apartment, signed up for CUB Energy Saver because she is a believer in energy efficiency. She shops for efficient products with the Energy Star label, uses Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs and has been known to charge her stepson a quarter if he forgets to turn the light off. “I told him, ‘That’s not coming out of my paycheck.’ He remembered really fast,” she said, laughing.

Evanston residents have been big fans of CUB Energy Saver. Earlier this year, the community won more than 21,000 Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs for having the most CUB Energy Saver members and saving the most energy in 2010.

Since then, thanks to a new competition launched earlier this year, Evanston now has 878 CUB Energy Saver members—the most in Illinois. Those Evanston members have used the online service to cut their electricity use by 341,852 kilowatt-hours and save $38,151.

This year, the Big 7 Savers Challenge pits Evanston’s top employers—St. Francis Hospital, Rotary International, Northwestern University, NorthShore University HealthSystem, District 65, District 202 (Evanston Township High School), and the city—against each other in a friendly competition to see whose teams can save the most energy and money at home. A person from each winning team will be randomly selected to win a year of free power, up to $1,800, from CUB.

To join the Big 7 Savers Challenge, go to www.cubenergysaver.com/evanston and sign up for a team.

“Evanston residents can be proud that their community is a leader in energy efficiency,” Kolata said. “It’s a green community, even in the middle of winter.”

CUB is Illinois’ leading nonprofit utility watchdog organization. It was created by the Illinois legislature in 1983 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, CUB has saved consumers more than $10 billion by helping to block rate hikes and secure refunds. For more information, call CUB’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556.

Efficiency 2.0 is a leading energy efficiency software and program administration company. It delivers efficiency and demand response benefits to utility and government partners by maximizing household engagement. Efficiency 2.0’s programs and software help consumers and businesses across the country better manage their energy costs. For more information, visit www.efficiency20.com.