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BuildingRating.org: A New Resource for Energy Performance Rating

by Caroline Keicher Jan 18, 2011

BuildingRating.org screen grab

Guest Blogger: Caroline Keicher, Institute for Market Transformation

This week the Institute for Market Transformation will be unveiling a new online resource that we hope will provide you with everything you ever needed or wanted to know about the rating and disclosure of energy performance in buildings: BuildingRating.org.

Buildingrating.org, at its simplest, is an extensive online library that, for the first time, brings together in one place the extensive array of searchable resources (policy, legislation, research, technical reports, press) available on the topic of rating and disclosing the energy performance of buildings. The site’s interactive map allows users to peruse the types of rating and disclosure policies that have been enacted around the world, and to pull up related documents.

 

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Prop 23 Threatens California’s Clean Energy Future

by Martin Chávez, ICLEI USA Executive Director Oct 28, 2010

Los Angeles Smog by Ben Amstutz

Photo credit: Ben Amstutz on Flickr.

Local governments across California are facing an assault on their efforts to create green jobs and foster vital business development through clean technology industries, and it will be up to voters on November 2nd to decide its fate. Passage of Proposition 23 (the Dirty Energy Proposition) would hamper progress on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in hundreds of communities across California, while threatening new opportunities for job creation and economic growth. 

It’s no secret that out of state oil companies are footing the bill for Prop. 23 and they have a lot to gain if it passes. Prop. 23 would effectively repeal California’s ground-breaking clean energy and clean air law AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This landmark legislation made California a model for clean energy innovation and largely responsible for the dramatic growth of the state’s innovative green energy industry.

"No" on Prop 23 Means New Jobs

During a time of deep economic despair, AB 32 has been instrumental in generating new businesses, which have led to hundreds of thousands of new jobs in an industry largely overlooked for many years. AB 32 has proven to be one of the few bright economic lights in a grim era marked by declining revenue, steep budget cuts, and a stubborn local 12.6 unemployment rate. Other than serving the interests of big oil and feeding our chronic dependency on fossil fuels, there is no legitimate reason for Californians to repeal AB 32.

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Nashua, NH, Green Team Re-Launches Green Business Roundtable

by The Greater Nashua Business Round Table May 20, 2010

Nashua River. Photo Credit: StarrGazr via Flickr

Photo Credit: StarrGazr via Flickr

Nashua, NH’s Green Team is re-launching its Greater Nashua Business Roundtable to engage area businesses in fruitful discussions and initiatives to help make Nashua a greener community. The mission of the Roundtable is three-fold. It raises awareness by educating and communicating green initiatives to area businesses, seeks areas where the municipality and businesses can collaborate and partner, and increases business opportunities in areas of green products and services.

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HUD's Shelley Poticha on the New Realities of Sustainable Development

by Don Knapp Feb 25, 2010

City Bicycle Road

Since HUD created its new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (established through the Livable Communities Act of 2009), Director Shelley Poticha has been shaping the vision for how U.S. communities can become more sustainable -- that is to say, healthier, more affordable, more economically vibrant, with a smaller environmental footprint.

BUILDER interviewed Poticha, who articulated her vision and discussed everything from transit and land use to economic recovery, public-private partnerships, and emissions reductions. The entire interview is well worth a read.

Here's what she had to say about local sustainability and economic recovery:

When you look at the regions that are really embracing walkability, investing in transit, and thinking about natural resources protection, these are the regions that are weathering the downturn best. Denver is a good example. Yes, they took a hit, but most of the housing foreclosures are out at the periphery in “drive to qualify” neighborhoods. The city center and suburban centers around the region that have focused on place-making are still doing well--places like LoDo, the Denver Tech Center, Boulder, Broomfield, and similar towns. The same is true for the Twin Cities. They’ve done a good job of focusing on these issues, and it’s helped them create a more diversified economy.

 

And on the ability of cities to lead on sustainability and make rapid progress:

I think one of the big lessons of the last decade is that cities do have the ability to envision a new future and put it into action in a relatively short period of time. Look at Salt Lake City, which is planning and building a whole new light rail and commuter rail and bus system. They are building at a faster pace than anywhere else in the country. One thing they did was to create a shared vision of what they wanted their region to be when it grew up. They worked very deeply with citizens, the community, and business leaders, understanding that the only way they could maintain their shared values with regard to community, family, and affordable lifestyles, was to think about how they were growing and the kind of infrastructure they were investing in.

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Stimulus Project Saves Energy and Money in Greenville, SC

by Rae Schindler Feb 07, 2010

Carolina First Center

The Caroline First Center in Greenville, SC, boosted its energy efficiency thanks to a
stimulus-funded project. Image source: Carolina First Center website.

Success Stories IconCongratulations to Greenville, SC, an ICLEI member that is among the first local governments to show the powerful impact of the federal stimulus dollars for energy-efficiency programs. Greenville, like thousands of other cities and counties, received funding through the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

Greenville spent most of its $743,400 EECBG award by October 2009, using $713,400 for energy efficiency upgrades to the Carolina First Center, an existing City-owned building that is the largest convention and meeting facility between Atlanta and Washington, DC. (Go here to learn more about sustainability efforts at the Center.) The City replaced 14 heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) rooftop units at the Center with six energy-efficient rooftop air handling units. The project created 14 new jobs and will save the City more than $11,000 per year, since the new units consume 20 percent less energy.

Greenville will spend the remaining $30,000 of its funds to conduct a greenhouse gas emissions inventory by June 2010. The inventory will help the City identify new opportunities to save energy and taxpayer dollars, and to reduce emissions and do its part to mitigate climate change.

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Just the Fact Sheets on High-Speed Rail

by Don Knapp Jan 31, 2010

Chicago-Pontiac high-speed rail map

Image source: Whitehouse.gov

As President Obama already announced last Thursday, 13 major rail corridors will receive funding to help develop new high-speed rail lines or to start the process of transitioning to high-speed rail. In all, a total of 31 states will receive $8 billion in funding for high-speed rail or existing rail improvements.

Read the White House fact sheets for specifics on the following major corridors:

 

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After Obama's Address: 5 Reasons for Optimism on Climate and Energy

by Don Knapp Jan 27, 2010

 

In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama addressed climate change and energy independent without uttering that hexed phrase, cap-and-trade. Local government leaders who have long hoped for strong federal action to slash carbon emissions have to feel a bit deflated, as Congressional leaders also back away from any climate bill that could make them appear as if jobs were not their singular No. 1 priority (even if that legislation creates jobs, but I digress).

Nevertheless, there are still many reasons to be hopeful that our nation will move forward with meaningful actions to create American clean-energy jobs, mitigate climate change, and kick our addiction to dirty energy. Here are a few, off the top of my head:

1. Obama still gets it. Even though he's scaled back his climate policy ambitions and is now pushing nuclear and offshore drilling, he still understands the science of climate change and that the clock is ticking to reduce emissions and head off runaway global warming. He still knows that climate action can ultimately save money and create jobs. Here were his words last night:

And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.  This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.  I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation.

2. Lisa Jackson is on a mission. Dealing with climate change is still at the top of the EPA chief's goals. Regulating carbon dioxide emissions through the Clean Air Act may serve as the plan B if climate legislation falters. Senator Lisa Murkowski is leading the opposition to EPA regulation, and we'll be monitoring the battle, since the outcome will have implications at the local level.

3. 2010 will be the "Year of Energy Efficiency," the year that stimulus-funded local government projects through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant hit the ground and make a real impact, with job creation and massive energy savings. Investment in energy efficiency, which hit a record in 2009, should continue to rise. Innovative PACE energy financing programs are multiplying at a phenomenal rate. More people will see the benefits of home-energy retrofits to save money, save energy, reduce emissions, and create local jobs. This is the quiet, unsexy revolution happening across America.

4. States are stepping up their leadership. Read this great SolveClimate roundup of exciting actions among states vying to lead the clean energy economy. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, wants Indiana to be the electric car industry capital. New Hampshire is scaling up clean energy R&D. New Mexico is calling itself the "clean energy state," launching new tax incentives and what may be the world's largest solar generation plant.

5. Local governments are still the inspiration, still the role models to show that climate action is very doable, and that communities committed to sustainability are thriving communities. Cities and counties continue to set the most aggressive goals and implement the most innovative ideas, like PACE financing and solar feed-in tariffs, to name just two. ICLEI USA's membership continues to grow, with seasoned local governments (New York City, Miami-Dade County) able to share their experience and expertise, via ICLEI, to help new members move forward more quickly to set emissions reduction goals and create action plans.

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Southeast Local Governments Take the Lead on Efficiency

by Eli Yewdall, ICLEI Program Officer Jan 10, 2010

Southeast Regional

 

Residential and commercial energy use are two of the three largest sectors in most community greenhouse gas emission inventories (transportation is the third). Local government interest in working with residents and businesses to reduce those emissions has exploded over the past year. This interest has been driven by the opportunities presented by Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant and Retrofit Ramp-up funding, and with innovative models like those profiled in ICLEI's 2009 Webinar Series on Innovative Energy Financing.

Southeast local governments are boldly embracing these opportunities and are creating some innovative models of their own. At least 13 local governments in the Southeast are developing programs to offer some kind of financial incentive for energy efficiency improvements to homes and/or businesses. Some will make loans with repayment attached to property taxes, some have come up with other creative ways to offer financing, and some are offering rebates or matching grants to reduce the cost of improvements and make the investment more attractive for homeowners.

Below is a summary of programs ICLEI has collected. If your community has or is creating an incentive program and is not listed below, please let us know! State network calls are a great opportunity to learn the latest about what peers in your state are developing. you can also use ICLEI's Peer Networking tool to contact one of the members referenced below.  ICLEI also expects to offer additional regional webinars in 2010 addressing commercial and residential efficiency programs as follow-up to the November 2009 webinar on Energy Financing Districts; we welcome member suggestions for webinar topics.

 

Household Meter-Readers


Property-Assessed Financing Programs

  • Leon County, FL, is piloting a property assessed financing program. The County's internal fund balance is being used for initial program funding. They will start with a pilot program of 100 energy audits, with audit participants having the option to take a loan of up to $6500 to make improvements. Eligible measures will include envelope tightening, caulking, ducts, insulation, and door and window replacement. County building inspectors will check the quality of work after completion.
  • Seminole County, FL, is also developing a property assessed financing program. They have allocated EECBG formula funds for program development and will issue bonds to raise capital for the loans.

 

Other Financing Programs

  • Charleston, SC, is developing a program with a portion of EECBG formula funds to offer loans for energy efficiency improvements which residents would repay on their city water bills.
  • Columbia, SC, will offer financing with repayment on water bills. They are working with the state energy office to apply for DOE Retrofit Ramp-up funds for the program.
  • Knoxville and Knox County, TN, have applied for $5 million under DOE's Retrofit Ramp-up program to support home and business efficiency improvements. A community non-profit lender that previously worked with the county's redevelopment programs has agreed to provide the financing.

 

Rebate or Grant Programs

  • Charlotte, NC, will spend $600,000 of EECBG funds to make energy efficiency retrofits available to 100 homes as a complement to its existing housing rehabilitation assistance program. Eligible homeowners will have an income at or below 80% of the area median income. Priority will be given to homeowners in current revitalization areas. Charlotte has also allocated $1.2 million for energy efficiency retrofits of businesses in Business Corridor Revitalization areas.  This program will leverage between oine and five times the city's investment depending on the efficiency technology. The city is in discussion with banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, about providing financing for these improvements.

  • Nashville, TN, has created Go Green District 18, with a goal of reducing total energy use in that district by 5%. Nashville Energy Services (NES), in partnership with TVA, will provide homeowners with an In-Home Energy Evaluation for a fee of $150. The fee is reimbursed if recommended improvements totaling more than $150 are made. Participants are also reimbursed 50% of the installation cost up to $500. Businesses can get a free evaluation, and homeowners and businesses can track their energy savings online through a special NES program called Powerwise. Participation is being promoted by Kristine LaLonde, Metro Council member for the district and by Mayor Karl Dean.

  • Orlando, FL, is implementing a program using formula block grant funds to retrofit 700 homes with up to $900 spent per home. Orange County, FL, is soliciting contractors to implement a similar program.

  • Atlanta, GA, has designated $2 million, about one-third of the formula block grant funds it received, to matching grants to homeowners for an efficiency improvement program called SHINE (Sustainable Housing in a New Economy). Contractors certified through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program will evaluate homes to determine the most cost-effective improvements. The program will leverage utility rebates, federal tax credits, and homeowner funds. Payment will be made directly to contractors at the completion of work. On-bill financing may be available through the natural gas utility. Atlanta has also applied for Retrofit Ramp-up funds from DOE to expand the program, and will try to pursue state authorization for property assessed financing. Decatur, GA is seeking funding through the state energy office and DOE to offer the SHINE program to its residents as well.

  • Sarasota County, FL, has allocated part of their formula block grant funds to rebates for residential efficiency improvements.

  • Alachua County, FL, has set aside block grant funds for a community efficiency program and is holding a community meeting solicit input on program design.

 

In addition to developing their own programs, local governments in Florida and Georgia are playing a leadership role in introducing enabling legislation at the state level that would accelerate the deployment of property assessed clean energy financing programs.

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A Look at Stimulus Dollars Flowing to Big Cities

by Don Knapp Dec 20, 2009

GOOD stimulus graphic

 Image credit: Infographic reprinted from GOOD.is website. click to view larger version.

In this intriguing infographic, GOOD.is takes a high-level look at how stimulus funds are being allocated in six big U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Houston, and Philadelphia. Education and transportation appear to be the biggest spending categories, although New York's priority is clearly buildings.

Here's the GOOD.is description from their website:

In February, the U.S. government passed the $787 billion Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus package, in an effort to breathe new life into a lagging economy. According to the website Recovery.org, nearly 20 percent of that money has been meted out in the form of contracts and grants. Much of it is flowing to cities for projects like building new roadways or greening federal buildings. Here's a look at the top municipal recipients and which sectors they're funneling their money toward.

 

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Communicating Your Energy Efficiency Successes

by Don Knapp Nov 03, 2009

Street sign of opportunity


Cities and counties need to show that the stimulus funds they received were money well spent. A new communications guide from Resource Media, "Framing Energy Efficiency as a Smart Stimulus Investment," shows them how to do it, and is a must-read for local government staff. The guide's introduction explains why:

Action Resources IconThe flood of stimulus projects breaking ground over the next 12 to 18 months offers an unprecedented opportunity to promote energy efficiency as a forwardlooking investment that saves energy and money for consumers and taxpayers while creating jobs. Every project announcement, launch and completion offers an opportunity to reinforce the values of energy efficiency in concrete ways that people can relate to their own lives. Promoting positive stories can also help keep energy efficiency above the fray of skepticism and attacks on the ARRA as a whole.

Download the guide to read recommendations to promote positive media coverage, case studies, and sample materials.

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