The City Energy Project Grows

cepWith the addition of 10 cities, The City Energy Project — a joint project of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation — now is helping 19 cities and one county tailor individualized measures aimed at reducing energy use in large commercial buildings.

A goal of the city energy projects is to enable municipalities to share what they find. A great deal of knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and the shades of gray in between has been amassed during the past decade. The key is to put that knowledge to work more broadly. There is no single path to increasing the energy efficiency of big buildings. But the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a shiny one. Buildings consume as much as 75 percent of a community’s energy, according to Julie Hughes, IMT’s Director of Building Performance Policy and Co-Director of the City Energy Project.

Knowledge transfer is a great tool. Several things are likely: That the methods that work in one community will be helpful — perhaps with some adjustment — in another. The CEP is having a positive impact. The press release announcing the new class of cities says that the 20 cities could save $1.5 billion annually by 2030 and reducing carbon emissions by 9.6 metric tons.

It is not easy to precisely isolate the impact of the CEP efforts because they often are used to support local initiatives. The CEP, in this sense, is an enabler. Some estimates are possible, however. Published or posted estimates say that by 2030 the CEP will help Miami-Dade County save almost $200 million on energy costs and cut carbon emissions by 1.2 metric tons annually. Reno could cut emissions by 95,000 metric tons annually and Providence could save as much as $20 million on energy.

Hughes says that Fort Collins, CO, has especially ambitious sustainability goals. The community could save as much as $11 million annually by 2030. Tony Raeker, the Green Built Environmental Program Coordinator in the municipality’s Environmental Services Department, told Energy Manager Today that there is great value in the program. “Through participation in CEP, we are hoping to increase participation in existing energy efficiency programs through enhanced services, building benchmarking, and improved training and education,” he wrote in response to emailed questions from Energy Manager Today. “Additionally, the other cities participating in the project form a network of like-minded cities seeking innovative solutions in efficiency and sustainability.”

The CEP seeks to integrate energy efficiency targets and goals into the larger landscape of a community’s sustainability plan. To that end, Raeker indicated that the IMT will provide Fort Collins with a full-time staffer for two years. The community will have access to staff, communications and policy support from the IMT and NRDC staffs. Communications also will be possible with other communities participating in the project.

There are tools available of which communities might not be aware. She cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Portfolio Manager, which is designed to help management assess the performance of the buildings for which they are responsible. “There are a lot of policy and programs focused on bringing attention to consumption data to help to educate and inform building owners and managers about consumption of energy in their buildings and the opportunities to improve them,” Hughes said. The CEP, she said, will help communities find and use these tools.

The first class, which entered The CEP in 2014, were Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Houston; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles; Orlando; Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. The new locales, which were announced last month, are Des Moines; Fort Collins; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; Providence, R.I.; Reno, Nev.; San Jose; St. Louis; and St. Paul, MN.

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