SUMMARY MINUTES OF A WORKSHOP
OF THE CHAPEL HILL TOWN COUNCIL
ON ENERGY AND SUSTAINABILITY
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2003, AT 1:30 P.M.
Council members present were Pat Evans, Ed Harrison, Bill Strom, Dorothy Verkerk, Jim Ward, and Edith Wiggins.
Council Members Flicka Bateman, and Mark Kleinschmidt were absent, excused.
Staff members present were Town Manager Cal Horton, Assistant Town Managers Sonna Loewenthal and Florentine Miller, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, Assistant to the Manager/Acting Town Clerk Bill Stockard, and Planning Director Roger Waldon.
Council Member Verkerk introduced David Konkle, Energy Coordinator for Ann Arbor, Michigan, whom she had invited to Chapel Hill after hearing him speak at an International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) conference in Seattle. She had been impressed by Mr. Konkle's ideas, she said, particularly those concerning money that can be saved by conserving energy.
Mr. Konkle explained that he had been Ann Arbor's Energy Coordinator for about 14 years, and recently the Department of Energy had asked him to speak to other communities about starting energy programs. He said it had been suggested that one can tell the quality of life in a society by the amount of energy it uses per capita. If that is true, Mr. Konkle said, the United States is doing really well. He noted the many problems associated with energy use, such as traffic congestion, pollution, and the difficulty of getting energy sources out of the ground. Mr. Konkle pointed out that there are cleaner and less clean, as well as difficult and less difficult sources. The U.S. and Canada use much more energy than other developed countries, he said.
Mr. Konkle explained that energy is so valuable in some countries that about 50 people had been killed in the Congo while trying to get fuel out of the ground as lava from an erupted volcano was moving toward them. He said cost, national security, depleted fossil fuels, and global warming are also energy issues. Regarding fossil fuel supplies (natural gas, oil and coal), Mr. Konkle said experts had agreed that oil supplies will peak in about 2010, and will run out worldwide in about 2050. He said there had better be another choice ready to go at that time, and now is the time to start looking at renewable energy sources. Mr. Konkle estimated that coal and natural gas would last a couple of hundred more years, but noted that coal is a serious polluter unless the technology can be found to clean it up. He described the fossil fuel age as a blip on the planet and said that humanity will have to move on to something else.
Mr. Konkle explained that 50% of the U.S. oil supply is imported and that is expected to go up to 70% in the next ten years because "we are running our own country dry." He noted that emissions into the atmosphere were causing global warming and explained that two major processes were creating the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: photosynthesis and respiration from plants, and biological and chemical processes connected with the ocean. The burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests has lead to the blanket of carbon dioxide around the earth, Mr. Konkle said, which lead to “climate change”, the new politically correct term for global warming.
Mr. Konkle explained that energy that is being trapped on planet earth was leading to more severe storms, floods, droughts, and unusual weather events such as el Niño. He pointed out that November and December of 2001 were the coldest months in recorded time, while the winter of 1999-2000 was the warmest ever recorded in U.S. history. Mr. Konkle stated that insurance costs are increasing and it is increasingly difficult to obtain flood insurance now that 100-year floods were occurring more frequently. He mentioned predictions that oceans will rise, more forest fires will occur, and more diseases will spread. Mr. Konkle stated that Michigan's maple trees will virtually disappear if the temperature rises five more degrees, as predicted.
Mr. Konkle said it was unfortunate that the U.S., the world's greatest emitter, was not taking part in the Kyoto Treaty, a global effort to reduce global warming emissions. Even though the federal government has not made that commitment, he said, some U.S. businesses are changing their operations and some cities, such as Chapel Hill, have signed onto Cities for Climate Protection, an ICLEI program to help municipalities lower their emissions. Mr. Konkle added that Cities for Climate Protection's membership includes more than 100 U.S. cities.
Mr. Konkle described the Ann Arbor Energy Plan of 1981, which included seven areas of emphasis: the role of government, transportation and land use, building retrofit, renewable resources, new construction and site design, promotion and education, and municipal operations. He listed the Energy Plan's objectives: to appoint an Energy Commission, to develop a data system and an emergency plan for what to do if energy supplies were interrupted, and to serve as an energy conservation role model for the community. Mr. Konkle said Ann Arbor updated its Energy Plan in 1993, and described their Town as a very progressive.
Mr. Konkle addressed the question of what a municipal energy office is and why a municipality should consider having one. He said the ideal would be to have a municipal utility, but most towns have public utilities that they must form partnerships with. Mr. Konkle explained that his Energy Office had been established to oversee energy issues, regarding electricity, natural gas, and fuel, for the city and/or the municipal government. These issues include energy supply, energy cost, energy policies, and energy programs, he said
Mr. Konkle explained that the Energy Office asks the “5 W’s”:
· who is supplying it,
· when do we need it,
· where does the electricity come from,
· what kinds of sources produce it and what kinds of emissions result, and
· why do we choose one thing rather than another.
The Office also questions whether to pay extra and get a cleaner brand of energy, he said. Mr. Konkle listed sources of cleaner energy as renewable energy, hydroelectricity, biomass, solar, and wind. Gasoline and diesel fuels are "no-brainers," he said, noting that there are alternatives to those, such as biodiesel fuel. Mr. Konkle pointed out that deregulation, such as had recently happened in Michigan, can lead to commodities being put on the market that no one knows much about.
Mr. Konkle stated that the Department of Energy requires states to have emergency plans, but does not require anything of cities and counties. He listed the critical facilities as government offices, energy services, public health, public recreation, electric power, oil/gas, communications, transportation, water supply, and commercial/industrial. Mr. Konkle asked if there is a plan in place for municipal outages, such as during the recent ice storm. He explained that Ann Arbor spends about $4.5 million a year on energy, and understanding past and present energy costs can lead to effective budgeting. Reducing costs is where an energy office really shines, Mr. Konkle said, and an energy office can reduce demand and save money by paying attention to what is on the bill and understanding how to reduce it.
Mr. Konkle remarked that Chapel Hill might be better off if deregulation does not occur, however, even though deregulation does offer the opportunity to choose things such as "green power." He said that mastering the complicated language is a huge learning curve that requires hiring a consultant or having a trained person on staff to represent the Town. Mr. Konkle then listed six reasons for having energy accounting:
1. Record energy consumption and cost, which he described as his major and most mundane duty.
2. Troubleshoot energy problems and billing errors. Having a centralized office lets you know which one of these it is, he said, and it allows you to question why a particular building is having higher costs.
3. Prioritize energy improvements.
4. Evaluate energy program success. This allows the Town to save money, and the energy office can prove whether programs save money or not.
5. Budget more accurately. Mr. Konkle said that every facility has its own budget for electricity and natural gas. So they turn the lights out when they leave and do not leave the window open in the middle of winter, he said.
6. Better position to shop for lower energy policies. Once you understand how you use electricity then you are better able to shop for deals on electricity, he said.
Mr. Konkle displayed a graph which indicated that water, wastewater, and streetlights were a major portion of Ann Arbor's energy expenditures. He advised municipal governments to begin by collecting data, noting that there was software available to help with that, or an Excel spreadsheet would work as well.
Mr. Konkle displayed a graph of annual electricity and natural gas usage at Ann Arbor City Hall and the Municipal Airport. He pointed out that there was no big spike in the summertime at City Hall and explained that this was due to natural gas powered cooling. When comparing buildings, Mr. Konkle said, one sees variations in energy use that might be due to weather, building additions, operations and schedule changes, and changes in building equipment. He said that computers and laser printers create "energy creep." Mr. Konkle told Council members that he had brought energy costs down in one building by changing to more efficient lighting. He remarked that parking structures also use a lot of energy, especially in the winter months because the lights are on longer.
Mr. Konkle listed five stages of opportunity for cost savings:
· green lighting,
· building tune-up,
· other load reductions,
· fan system upgrades, and
· heating and cooling plant improvements.
The Town would save the most money by replacing outdated lighting, he said. Mr. Konkle explained that the standard way to find out where your opportunities are is through an energy audit. He said there were three types of energy audits:
Mr. Konkle said the chief barrier to energy efficiency is lack of money. He explained that there might be grant funds available to help with some things, but not with all. Mr. Konkle listed the benefits as energy cost savings, improved worker comfort, reduced maintenance, and environmental responsibility. The people of Ann Arbor were proud of their effort to do these things, he said.
Mr. Konkle referred to a federal program called Energy Star for Buildings, which does not provide much money, but does provide significant support and is most effective in schools, grocery stores, and hospitals. That program was compiling databases with comparative statistics on BTU usage to determine whether a facility has a problem, he said. Mr. Konkle noted that Energy Star also has a database, called Portfolio Manager that helps track energy use in buildings. He pointed out that there are federal, State and local sources of funding, but most States are a pass-through for federal funds, which they distribute down to the local level for energy programs.
Larry Shirley, of the N.C. State Energy Office, explained that 33 North Carolina cities had participated in an energy program that he had instituted with two other people. The energy program had guaranteed that municipalities would get their energy officers' salaries reimbursed over a two-year period, or they would pay the difference, he said. Mr. Shirley told Council members that the program had been immensely successful, with only a small pay-out to one of the 33 participants. However when energy became cheap again, he said, many of those energy officers were not sustained. Mr. Shirley said he hoped to restart such a program because it will be critical if the State really wants to make a dent in energy use.
Mr. Shirley said Greenville, N.C. had the second largest municipal utility in the State. Greenville had the best residential energy efficiency program for new construction in the State, he said, and had shown immense savings in new home construction. Greenville also has an E300 house, Mr. Shirley said, which is certified by the city and had now become the standard for how to build in Greenville. He advised the Town to lead by example with municipal buildings and fleets, the way that Ann Arbor has, adding that Ann Arbor had demonstrated that the savings are great enough to pay for the operation.
Mr. Shirley said that North Carolina had initiated an effort, called a Utilities Savings Initiative for State Facilities, under which they will try to reduce the $225 million annual energy bill by four percent per year for the next five years. The total cumulative 20% reduction would be $120 million, he said. Mr. Shirley described this as a comprehensive effort, much of which should be transferable to the local level.
Mr. Shirley explained that energy accounting should be the first step, to get a baseline of what is being spent. This will identify problems and errors and let you know where to put extra resources, time, and effort to reduce energy uses, he said. Mr. Shirley stated that the next step is an energy audit to arrive at a comprehensive set of recommendations for how to proceed. Then look at the no cost/low cost energy conservation efforts, he said, adding that these can save from 10% to 20%. Mr. Shirley explained that North Carolina has an Energy Improvement Loan Fund that makes 3% loans available to local governments, school systems, non-profits and private industry for energy efficiency projects. It also offers 1% loans for renewable energy projects with a 10 year or less payback time, he said, and will pay any letter of credit or bank fees including the loan origination.
Mr. Shirley said that Chapel Hill would put forward a strategic energy plan in which it establishes priorities and identifies where it is spending the most money on energy. He praised the Town for bringing Mr. Konkle to speak, and said the State was available to help Chapel Hill proceed with a plan.
Council Member Strom asked Mr. Shirley to clarify what he had said about the loan fund. Mr. Shirley explained that the State makes up to $500,000 available per project. It offers 3% loans for energy efficiency measures and 1% loans for renewable energy projects, he said, and explained that items must have a 10 year or less payback and the terms of the loan can be up to 10 years in length.
Council Member Harrison asked if there was a municipality in the State that currently had an energy program. Mr. Shirley replied that there were small ventures with some of the State's utility facilities but that most, except Greenville, do not have an energy efficiency program. He added that some of the rural electric co-ops run by non-profit boards still have some energy programs.
Council Member Strom asked about assistance that the State could provide for a strategic plan. Mr. Shirley replied that there was a seven-hour training program available that takes participants through the different levels of creating a plan. He said the State had discussed making this training program available to local governments and school systems, so Chapel Hill should soon see information regarding that.
Mr. Shirley noted that the Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG) had a Clean Cities Program for converting fleets to more efficient levels and the use of alternative fuels. He explained that the State was solidly committed to conversion and that the National Energy Policy Act of 1992 covers local governments as well. Mr. Shirley said the Department of Energy had not written the regulations for local governments to participate, adding that the Bush Administration had been putting it off. He suggested not waiting for the federal government because it was paramount for North Carolina to do something now for the sake of economic development, public health, and the environment.
Mr. Konkle said that Ann Arbor had a good relationship with the State of Michigan and recommended that all local governments set up a similar relationship with their State energy office right away. He stated that local energy policy involves parking fees, outdoor lighting ordinances, and possible franchise laws for public utility companies. Mr. Konkle described Ann Arbor's new "green fleets policy," the major goal of which is to reduce the use of gasoline and fuel by 10% by 2011. This involves operation and purchase of vehicles, idling rules, alternate fuel vehicles, and more, he said. The city had asked its citizens if they would support spending up to 10% more to buy green power to use in city facilities, Mr. Konkle said, and the results showed that 42% were enthusiastic, 19% were supportive and 19% did not care.
Mr. Konkle listed the "big four" sources of energy programs as federal government, State government, local government, and utility companies. He mentioned Energy Star, Clean Cities Rebuild America, and Cities for Climate Protection Program, adding that these programs offer incentives, education, demonstrations, and rebates. Mr. Konkle explained that an energy coordinator looks at such programs and searches for opportunities to benefit the community and reach the goals of its energy plan. He told Council members that the Ann Arbor City Council had given him $100,000 each year for the last five years and he has used that to fund energy improvements and has invested it in new technologies. Mr. Konkle commented that the city had hired him around the time that they went for a $1.4 million bond to make improvements at 30 city facilities.
Mr. Konkle said that Ann Arbor City Hall had been able to get a bond for $350,000 worth of improvements in a performance contract under which the energy company guaranteed savings of $50,000 per year. They also received a grant from the State energy office to put in some advanced energy saving technologies, he said, which included timers, lighting, motions sensors, a nightlight system, data loggers, and energy meters to give information on how much money was being saved and how much energy was being used. Mr. Konkle noted that these energy improvements had saved more than $80,000 taxpayer dollars each year.
Mr. Konkle stated that Ann Arbor had been designated as a "clean city" by the Department of Energy and had been the first municipality in the country to get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to actually join a Department of Energy (DOE) program. At the end of 2001, Ann Arbor had 594 alternate fuel vehicles, he said. Mr. Konkle reported that Ann Arbor has three natural gas stations, including one at their city garage, and they might be the best natural gas fueling infrastructure in the U.S. He showed pictures of electric cars and explained how Ann Arbor educates the community about alternate fuels and options for vehicles.
Mr. Konkle mentioned a program called "Get Downtown," which provides free bus passes to those who work in downtown Ann Arbor, and noted the program has freed up hundreds of parking spaces. He said Chapel Hill was part of the Cities for Climate Protection Program, which offers a four-step program for determining baseline emissions, planning to reduce those, deciding how much to reduce, and then implementing the program. Mr. Konkle said Ann Arbor had done the baseline study and was waiting for the resources to do the program plan.
Mr. Konkle showed slides of Ann Arbor's hydroelectric dams. He discussed the methane gas capture from their landfill and said they contract that out, explaining that it is turned into energy, which takes care of an environmental problem, creates energy, and does not cost a cent. Mr. Konkle noted that Ann Arbor showcases green buildings, such as the Michigan Nature House, gives photovoltaic demonstrations of solar electricity, and uses solar heating in Town swimming pools.
Mr. Konkle explained that energy projects had saved $3,949,700 from 1990 until now. Ann Arbor also saved more than $1 million by buying energy from someone other than the utility company, he said, and another $1 million by making sure they were being charged the correct rate. Mr. Konkle stated that the total amount of money saved since 1990 was $6.8 million. In addition, he said, he had obtained about $468,000 in grants. These were all opportunities that most communities miss because they do not have people on staff to write the grants, Mr. Konkle said.
Noting that Ann Arbor's population (100,000) was larger than Chapel Hill's, Mr. Konkle suggested that Chapel Hill might partner with Durham, or some other town, in sharing a full time staff person. When one looks ahead, one can see that we need to pay attention and take responsibility for how we are using energy, and find other sources, he said.
Anne Taswell, the Clean Cities Coordinator for TJCOG, explained that TJCOG has two alternative fuel-related programs, the Clean Cities Program and the Biofield Program. She said the Clean Cities Program in North Carolina includes more than 50 public/private partnerships that are working together to increase the use of transportation alternatives such as biopdeisel fuel, ethanol, electricity, natural gas, and propane. Ms. Taswell noted that Chapel Hill was a strong member of this program. Chapel Hill's Internal Services Superintendent Bill Terry is its Vice Chair, she said, and Council Member Strom had volunteered to be the TJCOG delegate to the steering committee.
Ms. Taswell noted that diversity is the lynchpin, or strength, of any system, whether natural or manmade. She pointed out that the transportation sector is 97% dependent on oil and uses the energy equivalent of all the U.S. production plus 40% of imports. The U.S. has only 3% of the world's oil but is consuming 25% of it, Ms. Taswell said. She added that transportation accounts for 67% of the oil currently being used and that a 70% increase is expected in the next 20 years. Ms. Taswell pointed out that the U.S. is paying repercussions for this dependence, not only geo-politically but also environmentally.
Ms. Taswell stated that North Carolina was spending $5 billion annually on petroleum products that could be used to develop domestic energy resources, and 57% of the total energy used in N.C. is from petroleum. She noted that the American Lung Association ranks Raleigh/Durham as 13th on the list of cities having the worst ozone pollution health risk. Transportation is the number one source of that problem in urban areas, Ms. Taswell said, and better public transportation would help reduce the problem, but burning cleaner fuels also fits into the equation. She stressed that environmental pollution affects the public health, harms the tourism industry, leads to lower crop yields, and makes it less attractive for industries to relocate to North Carolina.
Ms. Taswell explained that ground level ozone and fine particulates are the pollutants that are most damaging to the lungs. She said that all alternative fuels improve emissions and that natural gas, propane and electric vehicles provide significant reductions in NOx and other pollutants. Biofuels reduce CO, greenhouse gases, and other emissions of concern, Ms. Taswell said, explaining that alternative fuels are the stepping stone to fuel cell vehicles. She said that all major auto manufacturers offer light duty vehicles in alternative fuel options and that all heavy duty engine manufacturers offer natural gas vehicles. Ms. Taswell pointed out that the Honda Civic GX was the first vehicle certified as a zero emissions, dedicated, compressed natural gas vehicle.
Ms. Taswell explained that TJCOG had been awarded $285,000 to develop a biofuels program in Wake and Durham Counties to offset the cost of E85 and biodiesel. She is in the process of applying for funding to expand that program to Orange County and to other counties in the Triangle, she said. Ms. Taswell said if the goal was to have public access to these fuels, Chapel Hill would be a great location for the first station.
Council Member Ward asked Mr. Konkle for more information and advice on funding sources for smaller towns such as Chapel Hill. He also inquired about who the Town should look to as a partner, but asked if the Town could do something by itself. Mr. Konkle replied that the energy office ends up saving 10% of what you spend on energy, and for a year or two, Chapel Hill could keep an energy coordinator busy full time with inventory and data gathering. The decision on whether or not to partner depends on the Town's relationship with other communities, he said, noting that Durham was very interested in doing something similar.
Council Member Strom asked what the Town should focus on when constructing its new Operations Center. Mr. Konkle replied that there was no better time to make sure you plan the capacity for natural gas fueling. Even though none of these things are cheap, he said, there is grant money available right now and it is a 70% federal/30% local match. Mr. Konkle emphasized that having options other than gasoline for at least some of the vehicles is very important, and Biodiesel is a great alternative.
Council Member Strom asked if Ann Arbor had developed the Green Fleets program in-house. Mr. Konkle replied that it is an ICLEI program and that four or five other communities had adopted guidelines for something similar. He said that Ann Arbor also had a local group with a national contract to teach other states about Green Fleets policies, using Ann Arbor as a model.
Council Member Strom, referring to what Mr. Konkle had described as "energy creep," asked if he could recommend any policies or standards to guide the Town when purchasing equipment. Mr. Konkle replied that you can require the Purchasing Department to accept only Energy Star approved equipment bids, but there is no way to beat energy creep, he said, since "everyone needs a more powerful computer than the one they have." The only way to combat it is to have an active energy program that looks for other opportunities, Mr. Konkle said.
Council Member Wiggins asked Mr. Konkle to describe some of the challenges that he faced when he was a new energy coordinator in a municipal organization. Mr. Konkle explained that he had been working for a company called Sun Structures and doing energy studies for the city on the side. He had been a general contractor building houses, he said, adding that this was a wonderful skill to have as an energy coordinator. Mr. Konkle said he had decided not to be non-confrontational. The energy consultant that the city had hired had taken the opposite approach and had put thermostats that could not be adjusted in the fire stations, he said, but the firefighters had found ways to defeat that system. Mr. Konkle explained that he tries to develop a rapport with the people he works with, even though he might not have the time to fully explain everything he does. He added that he has improved the lives of most of the workers. They now have a more comfortable environment and better lighting, Mr. Konkle said, adding that everyone usually is happy to see him coming especially now that he has funding. He added that he did not think there were any energy coordinator training programs at the universities, but the necessary skills are project management, grant writing, and communication.
Mayor pro tem Evans asked for more information on what can be done to save money at parking decks. Mr. Konkle replied that yellow, high-pressure sodium lighting can help, but people do not like it. He explained that the next choice is metal lighting. Mr. Konkle recommended sensors that turn the outside perimeter lighting off when the sun is out. He stated that a late night system with lights that go off when not needed would be useful, but that women's groups typically oppose them.
Council Member Ward inquired about Mr. Konkle's relationship with the business community. Mr. Konkle replied that the city leads by example, as stated in its energy policy, and that numerous businesses have incorporated their ideas into their own facilities. The most interaction occurs with utility companies, he said. Mr. Konkle noted that the Energy Commission does outreach and gives awards to businesses. He said businesses are represented in the mix on that Commission.
Mr. Horton inquired about how much total investment the community had been required to make to generate the $6 or $7 million in savings that occurred. Mr. Konkle replied that he had never worked the number out, but the wastewater treatment plant cost about $2 million, there was $3.4 million in bonds and $400,000 on the energy bank. He estimated that it might take $4 to $5 million to achieve that $6 to $7 million, noting that he had also brought grant money in. Mr. Konkle pointed out that many things needed to be replaced anyway, so it is hard to say how much of that investment was purely energy rather than maintenance-related.
Council Member Harrison commented that it seemed as though this would be easier to accomplish if the Town did it on its own. He urged the Town to work with Larry Shirley because Mr. Shirley is enthusiastic about finding funding.
Mr. Heflin, Public Works Director, asked if the fleet had resisted using electric and natural gas vehicles. Mr. Konkle replied that he had been surprised to find that many loved it because it was new, but the police department had been resistant, so he was not planning to force it on them. He explained that there was no E85 fueling facility for the fleet. The University of Michigan had offered their fueling, Mr. Konkle said, adding that several city departments had been enthusiastic about using that facility. He explained that he had been criticized by some for not being aggressive enough, but people will be good advocates for it if you do no force it on them.
Mr. Konkle replied to a question from the audience that he had not implemented a computer education program but does have the guidelines for doing so. He would like his City Council to agree that everything they purchase will be Energy Star, he said. Mr. Konkle, noting that the questioner had referred to LCD monitors that help reduce energy costs, said that he was not convinced that they do use less energy. He acknowledged that people really like those things, and if they do reduce energy costs then that would be worth doing, he said. Mr. Konkle pointed out that sharing laser printers would reduce costs, but it is difficult to take things away from people who are used to having them.
Council Member Strom asked Ms. Taswell if there were communities in North Carolina that the Town should look to for guidance on police vehicles. She replied that the Town of Garner has one compressed natural gas police vehicle, but she did not think that they wanted more. Council Member Strom noted that the Town had purchased some four-wheel drive vehicles, which had served the police and other departments well in the weather, but the Town also wants more opportunities to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. Ms. Taswell replied that E85 might be the way to go because many of the larger SUV’s can run on that.
The meeting adjourned at 4:30 p.m.