As communities strive to save energy, save money, and fight global warming, efforts to increase the energy efficiency of our nation's commercial buildings are spreading rapidly. Governments, companies, and other organizations are leading by example in their own buildings, while also engaging their communities to meet climate protection goals.
Through ENERGY STAR, EPA provides a platform that can be leveraged to promote energy efficiency throughout any community. Local governments, membership organizations, and others can use the process below to employ ENERGY STAR tools and resources in your energy improvement efforts, and follow along with Louisville, KY and others at each step for real-world examples of a community active in the fight against global warming.
Orange County, Florida
In 2009, the Orange County Government, Environmental Protection Division (EPD) received an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the U.S. Department of Energy. Made available through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the grant was intended to be a platform for promoting reduced energy use through the two most cost-effective measures—conservation and efficiency, based on Orange County's Climate Change Plan.
Orange County, like many counties around the nation, recognizes the importance of reducing the impact of the built environment on human and environmental health, and has taken steps in the past few years to demonstrate its commitment to fighting climate change. The county adopted its Climate Change Plan in September 2007 and updated it in 2009. The plan states Orange County's commitment to being a leader in energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting the environment. It sets the following targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a 2005 baseline: 15 percent reduction by 2010; 28 percent reduction by 2015; and 40 percent reduction by 2020.
One of several energy-saving programs made possible by the EECBG grant was the Central Florida Energy Efficiency Alliance (CFEEA) Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge. The Central Florida Energy Efficiency Alliance was established in July 2009 as part of the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The alliance is composed of a diverse group of stakeholders including utilities, professional and trade organizations, local government, and academia. Members include:
These groups are committed to research, education, and implementation of environmentally and socially responsible energy and building management practices. Of three environmental programs to save water, manage waste, and reduce energy use, the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge with ENERGY STAR is CFEEA's key initiative to promote energy efficiency and conservation.
Orange County has been an ENERGY STAR partner since 2009 and boasts two ENERGY STAR labels for its Environmental Protection Division building for 2009 and 2010. Beyond its participation in the ENERGY STAR program, Orange County set an ambitious goal for the grant money awarded from DOE based on its Climate Change Plan. The proposal was broken into four parts dealing with transportation issues, methane recovery, energy efficiency in public buildings, and community programs.
Orange County recognized the need to not only encourage energy efficiency among its residents and partners in the private sector, but to turn its attention to reducing its own energy use and operating costs. A portion of the EECBG funds are being used for energy efficiency retrofits and to purchase energy management software to better monitor energy use in county buildings.
In addition to the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge, the community projects are slated to include more efficient lighting at a county sport field complex, a waste reduction study, a grant to the non-profit Orlando Science Center to install a more energy-efficient HVAC system, and the implementation of the “Orange to Green” program. “Orange to Green” encourages sustainable behavior across the entire community and provides resources to homeowners, developers, and building owners and operators, among others. The “Orange to Green” program encourages green building practices in all Orange County buildings and provides information and support to facilities looking to reduce their environmental impact.
CFEEA devised the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge to raise awareness of energy efficiency and to motivate businesses to manage their energy use to prevent greenhouse gas emissions and save money. The Challenge calls for a 10-percent reduction of energy use per year for 3 years. This amounts to a total reduction of 30 percent for all buildings that have taken the Challenge.
The Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge involves five steps:
CFEEA encourages its participants to use Portfolio Manager to benchmark their buildings and take advantage of ENERGY STAR resources for energy management. Participants include the Orlando Health, Flagler Development Company, Orange County Public Schools, and the University of Central Florida. The CFEEA campaign is a multi-government collaboration, as evidenced by the number of local governments also involved in the campaign, including the Cities of Maitland, Orlando, and Winter Park, as well as Lake, Volusia, and Brevard Counties.
Through the efforts of CFEEA, more than 1,800 buildings are currently benchmarking in Central Florida for the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge. Participants that entered into the Challenge before June 2010 will be eligible to receive an award for their energy savings, and the winners will be announced in June 2011. CFEEA will add a water conservation program and a waste management program within its 3-year funding period.
To promote the Challenge, CFEEA team members took a number of simple steps to maximize the program's effectiveness. CFEEA sponsored a number of workshops designed to educate their target market about the Challenge, EPA's Portfolio Manager, and energy efficiency options. The program took advantage of opportunities to be featured in local media outlets such as the Orlando Business Journal and the Orlando Sentinel, and also distributed mailers and fliers to the public informing them of this unique program. In addition, CFEEA arranged for speaking engagements with neighboring local governments and the hospitality industry to expand the program's reach and target new market sectors, including other local governments and hospitality companies and organizations, as well as faith-based communities.
An important aspect of transforming the market for energy efficiency is ensuring there are workers who are trained and ready to fill green collar jobs. Training future workers in these jobs is essential to maintaining a healthy local economy while continuing to support environmental health.
CFEEA’s largest educational component is the Energy Specialist Training Program. Designed in conjunction with the University of Central Florida and ASHRAE Central Florida, the program was created to benefit businesses participating in the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge as well as students participating in the 12-week program. Engineering students at the University of Central Florida provide technical assistance at local businesses where they learn how to benchmark buildings using Portfolio Manager. The program also offers participants valuable access to experts in their field, potential employers, and a community of like-minded individuals who share the goal of being good stewards of the environment and of energy dollars. The Energy Specialist Training Program consists of four phases:
Phase 1 – Students are introduced to Portfolio Manager and the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge.
Phase 2 – Students begin online training and data gathering and attend a series of labs to work with real building data while receiving hands-on assistance from the program’s coordinator.
Phase 3 – Students prepare mock presentations and participate in mock site visits to imitate the experience of going out into the field and interacting with real business owners.
Phase 4 – Students conduct on-site visits with local businesses to help them benchmark their buildings and problem-solve energy use issues. Students have the opportunity to interact directly with CEOs, facility managers, chief engineers, and decision-makers.
CFEEA works to make sure the students have a valuable experience, and tries to place them into an energy management position or related position after completing the course. One-third of the graduates from CFEEA’s first Energy Specialist Training Program session have continued working in the energy management field.
Through CFEEA's efforts, more than 1,800 buildings were benchmarking in Central Florida for the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge, and 51 businesses and organizations were participating in the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge and demonstrating energy reduction leadership in Central Florida through the end of 2010. According to the Orlando Business Journal, if the program reaches its goal of 2,011 buildings entered into the Challenge, it will reduce emissions equivalently equal to the annual emissions from 400,000 cars or saving 5 million barrels of oil. The leaders from the first year of the Kilowatt Crackdown Challenge will be celebrated at an award ceremony in the fall of 2011.
In addition to making an impact today, the program has identified and started to address an industry-wide need for an experienced workforce in energy management through its Energy Specialist Training Program. This program is working to ensure that workers skilled in green collar jobs are available to fulfill the demand for these jobs now and in the future.