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Stimulus Dollars Advance Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy In America’s Cities

This contributed column is sponsored by Business Facilities LiveXchange.

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

The nation’s mayors have released the results of a new survey pointing to city successes in using Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Gresham (OR) Mayor Shane Bemis, Bridgeport (CT) Mayor Bill Finch and Carmel (IN) Mayor Jim Brainard presented the survey findings to highlight local energy innovations championed by mayors in every part of the country. The results document the responses of 204 mayors – representing cities of all population sizes and from all regions – to a series of questions from the Mayors’ Climate Protection Center designed to show generally how cities invested their EECBG program funds to help further local initiatives to reduce energy use, deploy new energy technologies and curb harmful energy emissions, among other local outcomes.energy

“These findings underscore that mayors have been leading by example on energy efficiency and conservation for years,” said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, Chair of the Conference’s Energy Committee. “Mayors all across the country have been actively working to advance energy-saving measures in communities large and small, and what we see in this report translates into real budgetary savings, local job creation and small business growth.”

Some of its key findings are below:

  • The three top uses of EECBG dollars by cities were energy retrofits of government buildings (83 percent of cities), LED/other energy-efficient street lighting (42 percent), and solar energy systems on public buildings and facilities (31 percent).
  • Most mayors directed a majority of their EECBG funds to investments in municipal projects and operations. Nearly seven in eight mayors (87%) expended a majority of their EECBG grant dollars on municipal projects and operations.
  • LED/other energy-efficient lighting ranked first among energy technologies that have already been deployed by cities, with local and federal resources, most notably EECBG grants, providing the primary sources of funding for these deployments.
  • The availability of EECBG funds to cities has influenced city budgetary priorities, and also prompted new partnerships with a range of private sector and governmental entities.
  • A majority of mayors cited energy service contracting as the innovative energy financing strategy that EECBG funds helped most often.

Of the report’s findings, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who Co-Chairs the Conference’s Energy Independence and Climate Protection Task Force said, “Even as mayors were confronting budget constraints due to the recession and federal spending cuts, this report shows that cities leveraged EECBG dollars by making investments that are still paying dividends today. In my city, we are reducing electricity usage and making solid waste and sewage sludge operations more efficient. So, clearly, this modest federal commitment has bolstered mayors’ efforts to advance energy efficiency, conservation and technology deployment initiatives in their cities.”

Five years ago, as part of ARRA, EECBG formula grants were distributed directly to cities by the U.S. Department of Energy. Of the $2.7 billion provided to the program in formula funding, about half of these dollars ($1.3 billion) were distributed directly to cities to support their energy and climate efforts, a commitment that ranked among the largest provided to local governments in the ARRA legislation.

The Conference of Mayors conceived the EECBG Program to engage the federal government in supporting the nation’s mayors in accelerating local energy and climate initiatives, especially the more than 1000 mayors who have joined as signatories to the Conference’s Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which was a landmark pledge for mayors all across the country to take bold action to significantly reduce carbon emissions in cities in alignment with Kyoto Protocol standards.

“The mayors who signed the USCM Climate Protection Agreement represent more than 86 million people in the U.S. who are learning how important it is to work locally to curb harmful greenhouse emissions and adapt to climate change,” said Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, Co-Chair of the Conference’s Energy Independence and Climate Protection Task Force. “The success mayors are having in deploying these resources makes the case for a stronger local-federal partnership on our nation’s energy and climate challenges, including continued EECBG funding to support cities and local areas as they develop new energy solutions.”

The Conference has also released a related report, Energy Efficiency and Technologies in America’s Cities, which can be found at here.

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About The Author

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager. In September 2012, she transitioned to a new role dedicated to developing online content for Business Facilities and Today's Facility Manager. Schwartz can be reached at [email protected]

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