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Dispatches news and views from the natural resources defense council

brilliant ideas

Improved energy efficiency can really light up your town.

a smarter skyline, illuminated A 10-city initiative will help building owners conserve energy, save lots of money, and help fix climate change


ometime in the not-too-distant

future, today’s twentysomethings will gather their grandchildren around the geothermal heating vent to describe how, when they were kids, people drove around in Hummers that got only nine miles to the gallon and lived and worked in buildings—get this— that did not have efficiency ratings. That is the future envisioned by leaders of the 10 U.S. cities participating in the City Energy Project, an initiative by NRDC and the Institute for Market Transformation designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings in these metropolises. Nationally, buildings account for a whopping 40 percent of total energy consumption. In cities, where buildings dominate the landscape, that figure can be as high as 75 percent. The City Energy Project is working to change that by making buildings more efficient;

6 0 onearth s p r i n g 2 0 1 4

it could lower energy bills by nearly $1 billion annually and reduce carbon emissions by up to seven million tons—roughly the equivalent of taking three or four typical power plants offline or of taking a million or more passenger vehicles off the road. For many of the participating cities, the first step will involve asking private building owners to benchmark the energy performance of their buildings against similar properties. “There is an EPA-recognized rating on your refrigerator and a miles-per-gallon rating for your automobile,” says Melissa Wright, deputy director of the project. “But for a building, that type of information is usually not available.” The rating will be done with a free online tool called Portfolio Manager, which takes a year’s worth of utility data and other information, such as operating hours and occupancy, and arrives at an overall score from 1 to 100. The project also seeks to raise awareness of the impact of

OnEarth Spring 2014  

Hog Wild, by Ted Genoways

OnEarth Spring 2014  

Hog Wild, by Ted Genoways