As temperatures rise in the Northeast this summer, so too does the amount of energy being consumed by buildings throughout the region. According to ISO New England, the top 10 demand days for electricity all occur within the summer months. Stretches of hot and humid days, such as what much of the region is experiencing currently leading into the Fourth of July holiday, puts a significant strain on our electric grid. So what can communities do to ensure outages are few and far between?
Communities are faced with the real concerns of climate change now more than ever, and efforts to mitigate those impacts are increasingly deployed. Recently, more cities and towns across the region are committing to energy and carbon reduction goals as a pathway to deal with climate change. Boston (MA), Providence (RI), and Pittsburgh (PA), are all amongst the leading cities committed to curbing their energy consumption and related emissions. Often omitted from these discussions are small- to mid-size communities, such as Hartford (CT), South Portland (ME), or even Hanover (NH). Collectively, these types of communities present a huge opportunity for the region to move closer to its goal of 40 percent carbon emission reduction by 2030.
Many of these communities are taking on energy and climate initiatives, like South Portland who recently adopted a building energy benchmarking ordinance as a key first step to reducing energy consumption in buildings. However, many others face steep uphill battles when it comes to taking on climate-related initiatives, specifically including energy efficiency. Below is a brief description of three key barriers that localities face:
- Resource Constraints – Through no fault of their own, communities lack the in-house bandwidth and expertise required to take on energy efficiency projects. Tight budgets and competing priorities make energy efficiency a fleeting goal at the local level.
- Getting Started in the Midst of an Overabundance of Information – The sheer amount of information available to communities on the topic of energy efficiency is daunting. Decision makers need to have access to information that helps them plan and prioritize tasks from the very beginning.
- Achieving Broad-based Support - Community-wide energy efficiency initiatives are complex and far-reaching. Therefore, it is important to involve the right stakeholders in the process and ensure all relevant decision makers are well-informed on the goals, benefits, and opportunities of the project.
A new NEEP resource aims to assist communities who have established energy and carbon reduction goals and also those that have yet to do so. The Community Action Planning for Energy Efficiency (CAPEE) platform was designed to help municipalities overcome those three major barriers listed above in order to successfully implement energy efficiency projects. The tool was created after years of conversations with stakeholders illuminated these common challenges faced throughout the region.
In 2017, NEEP convened a task force whose members work directly in or with municipalities to help guide the CAPEE project. The mission of the group was to inform the project along the way and ensure CAPEE was fulfilling its intended goals. The task force included members with a diverse set of backgrounds with representatives from utilities, town energy committees, regional planning agencies, and municipal staff members.
CAPEE is user-friendly and can be navigated by local-level energy champions, including energy committee members, facility managers, municipal administration staff, ordinary citizens, and others. Upon visiting the CAPEE homepage, users of the tool will be prompted to answer a series of eight questions regarding the municipality’s current energy initiatives. Responses to these questions enable the tool to generate a customized action plan with key next steps and information. The action plan also includes links to resources for more detailed, project-specific guidance. Additionally, NEEP can offer light technical assistance to communities that need additional support based on the recommendations generated through CAPEE.
By providing clear and actionable information, CAPEE enables municipalities to overcome some of the key barriers to community-scale energy efficiency. The long-term mission of this new tool is to help towns and cities achieve their reduction goals and pave the way to a more efficient, clean energy future.