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Going Green Can Make Sense

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Some things appear too good to be true….but this is true….so please listen up!

In 2003, the N.C. legislature joined a growing number of other states, across the country and with General Statute GS 143-64-17 authorized Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) as a method for funding energy related improvements for public buildings, both state and local. The statute applies to all state and local government units, including cities, counties, school systems, universities and community colleges. Through the use of EPC, all buildings within these governmental units could be upfitted with latest technology to reduce energy usage and cost, an average of 30 percent, in the areas of gas, electricity, water and lighting. At the same time, there would be a reduction of about 30 percent in greenhouse gases. And here’s the best part: ALL THIS CAN BE DONE WITHOUT ANY COST TO THE TAXPAYERS and without adding to government debt.

Here’s how: Energy performance contracting companies—-there are several to choose from—-will do a FREE energy audit of buildings to determine how much savings would result if the latest heating, air conditioning, lighting and water saving technologies were installed. These savings, once identified and agreed upon by both the energy company and the government entity, would be used to pay for the improvements. There is no financial obligation on the part of the governmental entity, in that N.C. state law requires that the savings must pay for the contract, with the contract guaranteed by the energy performing company. The legislation was written to insure that there is no risk to the governmental entity and no cost to the taxpayers. All contracts are let using the competitive bidding process, beginning with a request for proposal.

It is estimated that in Charlotte- Mecklenburg, including CPCC and UNC-C, there is a potential of $300 million to $500 million in improvements that could be made. This work could be done beginning almost immediately, creating hundreds of jobs throughout our county. Our school system alone could generate $80 million in contracts, addressing complaints that have been going on for years, about broken down heating, cooling and water facilities.

You would think that with the advantages listed above and the current economic depression, our elected officials and bureaucrats would jump at this opportunity as has been the case in other parts of N.C. and elsewhere. Sadly, this has not happened in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. In the meantime, our officials pass resolution after resolution vowing to address our pollution problems, to reduce our energy usage and practice water conservation, while virtually ignoring the one best way to accomplish these objectives, and do it NOW, through energy performance contracting. It is unconscionable that we are cutting basic services and firing teachers while spending millions on energy improvements, when these improvements could be make with EPC, and at the same time, create hundreds of jobs in our area.

There are all kinds of excuses: the city has been the most reluctant, with the excuse that they are doing the work themselves. True, the city has made some progress, but no where near the potential savings that an outside energy audit might provide, and the money the city has spent could have been used to fill potholes; the county, thanks primarily to the persistence of county commissioner Karen Bentley, has issued an RFP for the jail, which former sheriff Jim Pendergraph wanted done over 3 years ago; the school system, wherein lies the greatest single opportunity, has been dragging its feet for several years, showing some interest, but making little progress and CPCC, another area with great potential, has dawdled around for 3 years, with one excuse after another. The fact is that bureaucrats see this as an intrusion into their areas and somehow feel that if we find out that public buildings are not energy efficient, it will be a bad reflection on their job performance. One official told me that there was a fear their budgets would be cut if they showed savings!! The State recently passed a new ordinance stating that energy savings from performance contracting could not be taken away from universities and community colleges!!

With the opportunity to reduce significantly, energy use, conserve water, reduce greenhouse gases—all at no cost to the taxpayers, while at the same time creating hundreds of jobs in the local area, our elected leaders should be urged to act immediately. If a company was considering a move to our area, creating hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions in economic impact, our elected officials and bureaucrats would pay them to come—-in fact we do it all the time, yet they refuse to endorse energy performance contracting which would accomplish the same….at no cost to the citizens.

Faced with declining revenues, high unemployment, reductions in basic services, firing of teachers, closing libraries and the imperative that we reduce energy usage, conserve water and reduce greenhouse gases, how much longer will our governmental entities wait to embrace a commonsense solution…..energy performance contracting?

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