Energy Efficiency Reduces Local Expenses and Greenhouse Gases

Public Management, August 2000 | Go to article overview

Energy Efficiency Reduces Local Expenses and Greenhouse Gases


Most greenhouse gas emissions result from the use of energy. Optimizing the energy efficiency of local government operations reduces emissions while providing other significant benefits. Direct cost savings are the most obvious result. Indirect savings, while less quantifiable, can be substantial. For instance, efficiency upgrades in buildings improve employee comfort and thus may increase productivity. Spending on energy efficiency, in both public and private facilities, stimulates more economic activity and creates more jobs than does the payment of energy bills, while keeping those dollars in the local economy. The following examples show a few of the many ways in which communities can use less energy while protecting against climate change.

Montgomery County, Maryland

In Montgomery County, a strong engineering focus within the facilities management arena has led to impressive levels of savings in both new construction and existing county-owned buildings. The energy and engineering staff, who understand that buildings are dynamic systems, are key to the county's success. The county has achieved major dollar savings by sealing air leaks in its 187 existing buildings, and its goal is to retrofit all of its lights by the end of 2000. New buildings have been designed and commissioned (to ensure that they operate--and save money--as designed) to take advantage of energy-efficient design and technologies. For new construction, the county has met the aggressive goal of saving 40% of the energy used in a typical new facility. Similarly, it is achieving 30% - 40% savings in retrofits. Total electricity use fell 5% from 1992 to 1995. These major savings, achieved with minimal or no capital outlay and payback time, have been redirected to important public programs. Aside from internal activities, the county has established the Energy Efficiency Design Center to assist Maryland state and local governments in implementing its Energy Design Guide, and it has adopted energy-efficient building codes. Apart from saving dollars and energy, these efforts have also improved work environments, promoted environmental responsibility, and set an example for the private sector.

Cost benefits: $2.3 million over 4 years

Greenhouse gas reduction: 7,040 MTCE (metric tons of carbon equivalent) over 4 years

City of Phoenix, Arizona

The city of Phoenix's Energy Management Program (EMP) began in 1978 with the goal of eliminating inefficient energy use in government facilities in a cost-effective manner. The program also aimed to promote renewable energy use, provide leadership in the community, and raise awareness of energy use among employees. Initial measures were "no and low-cost" initiatives. In 1983, the city's new Savings Reinvestment Plan ensured future funding of the EMP by allotting 50% of the savings for additional energy efficiency improvements. The city's strategy involves energy audits, design consultations for new construction, use of the best and most appropriate technology, energy efficiency combined with ongoing maintenance, and promotion of state-of-the-art building management.

Cost benefits: $4 million/year

Greenhouse gas reduction: 4,150 MTCE/year

City of Toledo, Ohio

The city of Toledo, which has been involved in energy management since 1985, is a municipal leader in Ohio and is top-ranked nationally for its programs. In 1985, Toledo faced a facilities crisis because of inadequate funding for maintenance and no preventive maintenance for 250 buildings and other municipal facilities. Beginning with a building inventory, city officials initially incorporated efficiency projects into buildings, which produced immediate opportunities for significant savings. Then in 1990, the city began a three-phase energy management program. Phase One focused on retrofitting lighting in seven buildings with energy-efficient T8 fluorescent bulbs and electronic ballasts. …

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