The city of Springfield, Massachusetts cut its municipal energy use by 26 percent and now wants residents and businesses to follow the example.
Over the past 10 years, new boilers, windows, and lighting has been installed in dozens of Springfield school and municipal buildings that has put the state’s third-largest city ahead of its goal to reduce energy use by 25 percent by 2022.
The changes have been beneficial for both the environment and the city’s bottom line, according to Mayor Domenic Sarno, who said the annual savings on fuel costs is more than $3.5 million.
"So, we have done well on the city side and we want to see our residents and business community do well," said Sarno.
At a City Hall news conference, Sarno recently promoted the work of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation which does outreach in the Pioneer Valley and Berkshires to encourage people to reduce energy use.
The Foundation’s Susan Olshuff said a project called “ener-G-save” was created to educate and motivate more people to use the energy efficiency programs offered by utility companies.
"Every month when people pay their utility bill you pay into a fund that pays for the energy audits, and the fact people were not taking advantage of something they already paid for every month for years really bugged Mr. Grinspoon, so we came up with ener-g-save," said Olshuff.
The Mass Save program provides a free assessment of how homeowners and landlords can reduce energy use. Through the program, people can get LED bulbs, water-saving plumbing fixtures, programmable thermostats and some limited weatherization work at no cost.
There are subsidies and rebates available for installing energy-efficient heating systems and insulation.
Olshuff said low-income people can get help to reduce energy use through the network of Community Action Agencies.
The city of Springfield’s success in lowering its energy use began 10 years ago with energy audits of all its buildings, according to Patrick Sullivan, the city’s Executive Director of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management.
"And figure out do you need a new boiler, new windows, a new energy management system. We looked at the whole package," said Sullivan.
The city put $30 million into the energy efficiency projects and also drew on federal and state grants and rebate offers from the utility companies to fund the work.
"Everyone is talking about our planet and how we are not doing enough, Springfield is doing its part and every community started doing this we would have a safer world to live in," said Sullivan.
Sullivan said the city purchases its electricity and natural gas through competitive bids from suppliers on the open market and plowed those savings into energy efficiency projects.
Using federal funds, Springfield plans to install solar panels with a battery storage system at one of the city’s newest elementary schools.