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Watch this trend: More cities will embrace energy savings programs

Towns and communities large and small are looking to energy efficiency retrofits and programs to help stretch municipal budgets.

Apparently, 'tis the season for local governments and municipalities to take a stand on energy efficiency. In the past two days, I have received news about more than a half-dozen cities or towns that have signed energy efficiency and savings contracts with two of the companies offering energy savings performance contracts Ameresco and SourceOne.

Here are the quick details:

  • Ameresco has signed a contract with the City of Greenville, S.C., that is estimated to save the city around $330,000 annually under an energy savings performance contract. (What that means is that the energy efficiency retrofits undertaken by Ameresco are supposed to provide a guaranteed level of savings; if those savings are not achieved, Ameresco is on the hook for the difference.) The work for the 15-year-long contract will include system upgrades for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment, lighting technology retrofits and water conservation efforts. There are probably 36 different facilities that will be affected.
  • The SourceOne deal, which actually was originally announced in lat October, covers six towns in Connecticut: Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison and Westbrook. The goal is to find 5 percent in energy savings across the communities. They towns received a $250,000 grant from the State Office of Policy and Management; the deal is part of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. SourceOne is actually a subsidiary of Veolia Energy North America.

Truth be told, there have been many other deals like this that I have noticed throughout the past two months, which you can see if you peruse the Web sites of these two companies, along with some of the others that I am following.

Examples include Honeywell Energy Services (which recently teamed up with Somerville, Mass.), the City of Houston's $23 million project with Schneider Electric, and Pepco Energy's $6.1 million deal with Greensboro, N.C. There are countless others, I'm sure, that I will hear about as soon as this post goes live. I would especially love to hear about what's working, what's not and where the saved money is going.

There's a whole list of potential energy services partners on National Association of Energy Services Companies Web site. I don't have any particular read on who's great or not.

In my mind, these communities are demonstrating the sort of leadership that other municipalities could benefit from emulating. With local government budgets squeezed across the United States -- and the situation likely to get worse before it gets better -- cities and towns would do well to address energy efficiency before slashing deeply into the budgets for citizen-facing services. I'm betting we'll hear a lot more about deals such as these in 2011.

Additional background reading:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com