Filed Under:  Environmental, Local, News

City, state still in the dark when it comes to energy efficiency

23rd September 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Michael Patrick Welch
Contributing Writer

On Tuesday of last week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in Washington D.C. released the 2013 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, the first ever report ranking the top 34 most energy-efficient, heavily populated U.S. cities. The report also includes recommendations and strategies for cities to lower energy use.

Mayors from the ACEEE’s top two ranked cities, Boston and Portland, participated in a teleconference Tuesday with the report’s lead author, ACEEE’s executive director, Steven Nadel. “It is very important for cities to cut their energy use,” began Nadel, “to lower costs, save money, improve living and working environments, reduce commuting costs, create jobs, and pump money back into the economy.”

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston said, “Mayors have a responsibility to push the envelope and reduce greenhouse gasses emission. [Boston] planned to reduce our carbon blueprint 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.” Menino’s state is meeting that goal thanks in part to Boston’s Home Energy Program (which helps people weatherize their homes, as well as creates jobs), the Renew Boston initiative(which encourages driving less and buying local foods), and the city council approved Energy Dis­closure Ordinance, which Menino calls, “One of the most important ordinances we have as far as reaching our climate change emission goals.”

Mayor Charlie Hales of Portland cited the “Oregon Values and Beliefs Study” which claims that 72 percent of Portland residents think climate change requires us to change our life regarding transportation, housing and other choices. “Daimler trucks will build a new headquarters building [in Portland],” Hales was happy to announce, “and will hire 400 engineers to design energy efficient trucks.” Hales also mentioned a new stormwater management program, and 116-million dollar mixed use project at the intersection of Portland’s light rail line and streetcar line.

New Orleans did not rank within the ACEEE’s top 34 most energy efficient cities. It was only 2012 that a “comprehensive energy efficiency plan” was developed by the New Orleans City Council and administered by Entergy New Orleans, Inc.

That program offers cash incentives for energy efficiency audits, upgrades, and air and duct sealing and insulation. According to Entergy, over 8,000 New Orleans businesses and residences participated in the first year; 90,000 energy efficient light bulbs have since been installed in over 4,000 homes; over 600 residential energy audits have been performed and over 400 measures installed; over 2,000 low-income residents have received energy efficiency measures and free A/C tune-ups. Overall, the plan has so far supposedly helped more than 5,570 businesses and individuals cut down on their power use and save money in the last nine months of 2012, and saved over 15 million kilowatt hours of energy, enough to power nearly 1,300 homes for an entire year.

The state of Louisiana as a whole though has been hesitant to pursue energy efficiency.

Nola.com reports that at several contentious state utilities meetings in Baton Rouge, a statewide program called Quick Start has been discussed, which would give electric utilities and natural gas providers one year to develop en­ergy-efficiency programs such as rebates to residential, commercial and industrial customers who lower their energy usage. Com­panies would recoup the costs of the Quick Start program and its rebates via a new blanket fee on all utility customers.

The statewide plan has been hotly debated, then demoted to “voluntary,” and has still so far been held at bay.

Votes have fallen along party lines, with Chairman Eric Skrmetta (R-Metairie) claiming the proposal would ultimately pass on the costs to consumers, and rejecting the idea that the blanket fees (which reportedly would be capped at around $0.50 for residential consumers and $5.41 for non-residential customers) would be outweighed by lowering energy costs.

The ACEEE plans to publish the report’s next edition in 2015. The 2013 edition can be downloaded at www.aceee.org/files/pdf/summary/e13g-summary.pdf.

This article originally published in the September 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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