By David Rouse & Ed Gallagher, Senior Fellows, Center for Public Service
CPS Senior Fellows, David Rouse and Ed Gallagher, along with two MPA students, led a project through PSU’s Center for Public Service to assist small cities and counties in lowering their carbon foot print and reducing their energy consumption through the use of sustainability practices.
Funded by NW Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), the project looked at best practices in sustainability nationwide and then narrowed the focus to smaller communities and jurisdictions that might otherwise not engage in developing a sustainability plan. Smaller cities and counties typically do not have the staff expertise or budget to undertake a comprehensive approach to energy conservation.
Through a selection process, two Oregon cities (Independence and Albany) and one county (Yamhill County) were chosen for the project. To facilitate the process, a CPS team traveled to each jurisdiction for the purpose of developing an internal staff team to work in conjunction with CPS. Four key areas were identified to focus efforts: facilities, operations, purchasing, and fleet.
- Each jurisdiction is unique in how they consume energy therefore a one size fits all does not work.
While there are commonalities among public agencies, each jurisdiction provided unique services. For example, Albany had responsibilities for running a public swimming pool with an antiquated boiler system, increasing their energy use. Yamhill County was responsible for jail services and had high energy use (water/heat) related to inmate use. While high energy use is common in these two examples, the solutions to each of the problems are very different.
- If you can’t measure it, you can’t reduce it.
Step one: consolidate your energy bill. Surprisingly, when asked, most agencies cannot state what their total energy usage is. This is because monthly billings come to multiple departments within the jurisdiction; energy costs are not typically quantified in one bill. Each department is responsible for paying their own portion of the total bill, and when looked at in total, most agencies are shocked at how much they pay out in total. However, without awareness of the total usage, there is little an organization can do to reduce usage.
- Energy usage should be looked at as a manageable expense.
Most agencies assume their energy costs will go up each year and budget accordingly. When looking at expense from a sustainability and conservation standpoint, it is important to identify where your agency consumes energy—from lowest to highest—and develop a plan to reduce use where it is most cost effective. In most cases, energy usage can be reduced, not increased; hence, saving precious budget resources.
Rouse, Gallagher, and the rest of the CPS team developed comprehensive sustainability and energy conservation plans for each jurisdiction. The plans identified short term and long term projects for each agency that had potential for reducing energy usage. Also included in the plans were financing alternatives that identified potential grant funding and/or low interest loans for projects that focused on energy conservation.
Final reports are available at https://www.pdx.edu/cps/profile/sustainable-municipal-operations-final-report-albany-independence-and-yamhill.