The Energy Efficiency Mantra

Article excerpt

Following directly after the NLC Congressional City Conference last month, a leading meeting on energy efficiency moved into the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. The 2010 National Symposium on Market Transformation, organized by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), attracted top professionals in the energy efficiency community, and included a wealth of information for cities. The message: "Capture all cost-effective energy savings."

The focus on energy efficiency is especially useful as local governments are formulating sustainability plans and struggling with city budgets. Many cities are also beginning to identify the best uses of ARRA and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funds.

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Marc Hoffman of CEE said "the cheapest, cleanest energy is the energy we don't use," and the conference offered plenty of examples. For instance, LED fighting uses a fraction of the electricity compared even to CFLs, and operating savings are available to cities that convert their traffic and street lights to LEDs. The cost is also rapidly decreasing, while the federal government is looking at requiring energy efficient bulbs.

Significant building retrofit projects are taking place in cities around the country as developers and owners voluntarily ramp up energy efficiency goals. In the U.S., more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to buildings, and by some estimates that percentage is as much as 65 to 75 percent in cities.

Steve Morgan, a board member of ACEEE, said, "The key to high adoption and deep penetration of energy efficiency is mandatory standards in existing buildings, but to get there, we have to first show that voluntary energy efficiency measures work."

Some urban areas have begun a new type of service agency to capture all cost effective savings in cities. Featured at the meeting were energy alliances in Cincinnati and Charlottesville, Va. These agencies are public-private partnerships that have teamed up with cities but are not wholly funded by them.

Cincinnati is planning a door-to-door effort aimed at driving homeowners to request energy audits. In Charlottesville, an ambitious agenda will search for multiple ways to overcome hurdles to retrofit buildings. The goal is to assist building owners with auditing, contracting, and connecting with utility rebate programs and other financing mechanisms.

Questions around funding for energy efficiency projects came up often at the conference. While building audits usually begin the process of installing efficiency measures in older buildings, audits alone don't always lead to action. …