Archive for June 28th, 2012

N.C. Energy Office Wins Grant for Energy Efficiency Improvement Projects

Posted on: June 28th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Program Will Benefit Rural Schools, Community Colleges and Local Governments

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Energy Office has received a $532,134 U.S. Department of Energy grant to expand its award-winning Utility Savings Initiative to provide energy efficiency assistance to often overlooked or understaffed rural public school systems, community colleges and local governments.  The grant will enable the Energy Office to work with eight public school districts, eight community colleges and six local governments to plan, implement and finance energy efficiency improvements to buildings and other public infrastructure.

“Many of our public buildings and other infrastructure can provide many more years of good use at a reasonable cost to taxpayers if we can get control of the costs to operate them,” said Jon Williams, N.C. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Energy.  “With this grant, 22 agencies will be able extend their life and usefulness while curbing wasteful energy consumption, controlling government costs and freeing up capital improvement dollars for other needs.”

North Carolina is one of 22 states receiving a portion of the $14 million in the U.S. Energy Department’s State Energy Program 2012 Competitive Awards grants.  The grants were announced Wednesday by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“Deploying energy efficiency in our buildings, vehicles and industries creates jobs, grows markets for American-made products, reduced energy bills for families and businesses and makes the American economy more competitive,” Chu said.

The goals of the federal program included: increasing energy efficiency in public facilities while implementing building retrofit programs or strategies across as broad a segment of the state’s public building portfolio; stimulating energy efficiency actions to support investment in cost-effective energy efficiency to achieve statewide energy savings goals; and developing a public facilities energy retrofit program that can be used successfully to retrofit public facilities throughout the state and across many public sectors.

The state Energy Office’s Utility Savings Initiative group expects to be move quickly by identifying projects from the waiting list compiled from competitive grant applications made through the federal Recovery Act solicitations.  Energy audits of buildings and a comprehensive strategic energy plan were requirements of those applications so there is a “shovel-ready” waiting list of potential projects.

Performance contracts, an investment-grade method of financing energy improvements with the money saved as a result of the upgrades, will be designed for the 22 agencies and some projects could be finished in as few as nine months while others may need up to two years to complete.  Along with the upgrades and retrofits, a long-term data collection system will be used to collect and track energy savings and provide important information for other agencies contemplating investments in energy efficiency improvements.

The Utility Savings Initiative has developed a strong track-record in conserving energy and saving taxpayer dollars by controlling the state’s utility bills.  Since the program’s inception in fiscal year 2002-03, an investment of approximately $11.5 million has produced more than $417 million in avoided utility costs.  Energy consumption in state facilities is down 18 percent while energy costs have increased 44 percent.  Had the Utility Savings Initiative not been in place taxpayers would have paid an additional $82.8 million for utilities.

 

The news release from the U.S. Department of Energy is available online at:

http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/news/progress_alerts.cfm/pa_id=758

Asheville goes greener with natural gas vehicles

Posted on: June 28th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

ASHEVILLE — Aiming to become the greenest city in the Southeast, Asheville boosted the number of vehicles in the municipal fleet that can run on cheaper and cleaner-burning compressed natural gas.

City officials along with Land-of-Sky Regional Council staffers and Mission Health Systems celebrated the reopening Wednesday of the city’s CNG-filling station on McCormick Place and the addition of new vehicles that will mean less greenhouse gas emissions and better air quality for the mountains.

“This is what it looks like to become the greenest city in the Southeast. You need the people with commitment and the clean local technology,” said Maggie Ullman, the city’s sustainability director.

The new vehicles and station improvement were the region’s share of federal stimulus money obtained through the Carolina Blue Skies and Green Jobs Initiative.

Spearheaded by the Triangle J Council of Governments, the project has spent about $12 million for more than 40 alternative fuel projects in North and South Carolina that should save 3 million gallons of gas each year.

The Asheville area has become a leader in the use of CNG vehicles, with two-thirds of the vehicles reported in operation in North and South Carolina, said Kathy Boyer of the Triangle J Council. “You guys have done a really good job,” she said.

The city station was originally built in 2005, but the renovations have doubled the station’s capacity. The city used $1.5 million including more than $800,000 in stimulus money for the improvements and to add 23 new CNG-fueled vehicles. Currently, 37 of the city’s 600 vehicles, or about 7 percent, run on the compressed natural gas, which typically costs a dollar less than a gallon of gasoline.

The CNG infrastructure is expanding around the region, making it easier for drivers to refuel vehicles converted to run on compressed natural gas.

Other sites include Alltec Eco Energy’s station on Hendersonville road and a new station in Hendersonville. PSCNC, the area’s natural gas utility, plans to open a filling station on Brevard Road later this year.

“We have the largest concentration of CNG filling stations than in any other part of the state,” said Bill Eaker, who heads the Land-of-Sky Regional Council’s Clean Vehicles Coalition.

Mission Health Systems workers will also use the station to fuel the five new CNG vehicles added to the nonprofit’s shuttle fleet. Mission received about $100,000 in grant money for the purchases. Using CNG fuel the past six years has reduced Mission’s greenhouse gas emissions by 276,000 pounds, saving some 14,000 gallons of gas.

Mission is committed not just to the health of individuals but improving the health of the environment for all, according to Dr. Ronald Paulus, Mission’s CEO.

“We can do right by doing good,” Paulus said. “The quality of our air impacts the health status of our community, whether it’s kids with asthma or adults with COPD.”

Natural gas is cheaply abundant in the U.S., which has greater reserves of the gas than Saudi Arabia has oil, Paulus said.

“It’s a lot easier to budget for natural gas as a fuel than for diesel,” said Keith Bamberger with the state Division of Air Quality in Swannanoa. With the move toward cleaner-burning vehicles as well as the smokestack improvements at the Progress Energy plant, “our air quality is getting noticeably better in recent years,” he said.

 

Written by: Dale Neal, Asheville Citizen-Times