Energy Efficiency Thrives in Local Governments & Organizations

Daniel Pidgeon, ERS, for Zondits

With the appointments from the Trump administration over the past month or so, the future for energy efficiency growth looks bleak at the federal level. Despite such uncertainty, the fact remains that many initiatives happen much closer to home, as various state and local governments take matters into their own hands.
California Governor Jerry Brown has publicly rejected the new president’s stance on climate change and has vowed to continue leading the clean energy movement throughout Trump’s presidency. Here is a look at some states that are leading the charge towards a more environmentally conscious and energy efficient future.
NYSERDA’s REV Campus Challenge – Technical Assistance Roadmap
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA’s) REV Campus Challenge is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), which involves the development of clean, reliable, and cost-effective energy systems that can stabilize the grid and become available for all New Yorkers. The Campus Challenge’s purpose is to help New York colleges and universities meet their financial, environmental, academic, and community goals through clean energy solutions, while also helping scale up clean energy use statewide.
The initiative was launched in October 2015, but a spring 2016 workshop concluded that many colleges and universities in the state have yet to set carbon or energy reduction goals including an established baseline or action plan to address campus energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. The objective is to target these participant-level Campus Challenge members to kick-start campus clean energy progress by enabling institutions to hire an energy consultant to aid in the evaluation of existing energy-related conditions and to establish a plan for managing changing energy needs.
MA Department of Energy Resources – Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative Implementation at Hospitals
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Energy Resources (DOER) develops and implements policies and programs aimed at ensuring a diverse, secure, reliable, and cost-effective energy supply within the context of creating a cleaner and more efficient energy future. The DOER is preparing for climate change impacts of sea level rise and an increase in extreme storm events. Thinking that this may lead to impairment on public and private services and business operations, the DOER sees the need to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of energy infrastructure with the investment of new technologies.
The Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative (CCERI) is the $40 million grant program to a clean energy focus towards a secure and cost-effective energy status. CCERI is now on round three of their grant, which is targeted for the CCERI implementation at hospitals. Up to $11.5 million dollars will be allocated to selected projects for hospital energy resiliency. Eligible hospitals include those where the loss of electrical and/or heating and cooling services would result in disruption of vital functionalities, which would put at risk the health and safety of occupants and/or necessitate their relocation to another hospital facility.
Projects will incorporate clean energy generation paired with resiliency enabling technologies such as energy storage, energy management systems (EMSs), blackstart and island technology, and microgrids, etc. Projects will not solely cover the generation of energy technology (CHP, solar, wind, etc.).
New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program – Solar Renewable Energy Credit Registration
While many states have solar renewable energy credit (SREC) programs today, New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program was established in 2001, when there were only six solar installations in the state. In 2016 New Jersey issued 3,317 SRECs in the month of September alone. The SREC Program is a registration program for the installation of solar panels that is different from the typical rebate project. After the solar project has been completed it is issued a New Jersey certification number and gets its own unique SREC. Each time a solar installation generates 1,000 kWh of electricity, an SREC is earned. SRECs can then be sold on the SREC Tracking System, providing revenue for the first 15 years of the project’s life.
The California Energy Commission’s Bright Schools Program
Similar to NYSERDA’s Campus Challenge Program, the Bright Schools Program was established to help identify the most cost-effective energy saving opportunities to help combat the shrinking budgets and high costs for school operations. This is achieved by providing financial support for a third-party contractor to evaluate the school’s current energy usage with their technical assistance. This comes in the form of energy audits, proposals and designs, equipment specifications, and reviewing commissioning plans. However, unlike the Campus Challenge Program, the Bright Schools Program is open to K‒12 public schools, charter schools, state special schools, county offices of education, and community colleges and will cover a much broader customer base.
Efficiency Maine – Maine Advanced Buildings Program
Efficiency Maine has also been a leader in energy efficiency programs through its various cost-effective programs targeting alternative energy uses. One way that Efficiency Maine has continued down the path of energy efficiency is through the Maine Advanced Buildings Program. The program offers comprehensive strategies to help new developers, architects, and engineers design energy efficient commercial buildings. This can be through green architecture (LEED buildings) or through energy efficient appliances, HVAC equipment, and lighting. In order to receive the incentive, new buildings must be at least 30%‒35% more energy efficient than the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code requirement. The incentives are $1.75 per square foot and are capped at $175,000. There is a New Construction Guide on their website that lays out a step-by-step guide for highly energy efficient buildings.
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation – Renewable Energy Fund
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation has a financing component devoted to alternative energy technology called the Renewable Energy Fund. Within this fund is a commercial-scale project and a small-scale project. The commercial-scale project will be in full effect by the end of 2017 and incentivizes both direct ownership and third-party ownership projects. Direct ownership projects can receive a maximum of $200,000 per project and the third-party ownership projects can receive a maximum of $100,000 per project. Renewable energy sources that are included in the rebates are solar, wind, ocean, small hydroelectricity, biomass, and fuel cells.
The small-scale projects in the Renewable Energy Fund are focused on home owners and small businesses. Unlike the commercial-scale project, the small-scale project is limited to solar energy only. The direct ownership projects can receive a maximum of $10,000, while the third-party ownership projects can receive a maximum of $5,000 per project. The flexibility of the program should be able to generate much higher renewable energy rates throughout the state.
As the uncertainty continues for the energy efficiency world from a federal standpoint, it is good to know that states will continue taking action to promote their own local agendas. Regardless of President Trump’s executive actions or appointees, environmentally conscious states will continue to influence the public at large. This paradigm is very important to understand and remember, as there has been a continuing trend toward strengthening environmental policy ever since the 1970s. Looking forward, it is hopeful that states can continue to push their environmentally conscious agendas and influence the federal government from a bottom-up approach.