CC formed the Energy Conservation Program (ECP) in 1997 with the support of Minnesota Power, a major Midwest utility company. ECP became a national energy engineering and conservation effort designed to help large energy consumers to become more energy efficient. The unique program conducted energy audits, reviewed building conservation measures, and undertook the necessary construction planning and energy engineering improvements for cities, counties, universities, military bases, hospitals, and other large institutional and industrial complexes. Developed as a pilot program to provide comprehensive energy cost reduction technology services and financing for municipal governments who could ill-afford the expensive costs of retrofitting municipal buildings, the entire program could be implemented without the need for any state or local appropriation or other up-front financing. New equipment, construction improvements and more could be provided FREE OF CHARGE. ECP would get paid-back from the guaranteed energy savings.
Designed initially as a revolving loan fund, ECP had more than $25 million available to help cities become more energy efficient. The program was implemented in two phases:
- Energy Acquisition Management This program provided an in-depth analysis of all utility billings and current energy acquisition procedures and made recommendations and/or implemented purchasing plans, when applicable, to reduce the cost of energy purchases.
- Energy Engineering Management This program provided both energy cost-reduction measures as well as energy production projects. ECP would conduct a thorough review and evaluation and would develop a comprehensive cost-reduction program for client’s facilities. This could include new lighting, new heating or cooling systems, new insulation, etc. All of these construction and equipment improvements could be installed and maintained at no cost to the city/customer.
Once the review process was complete, ECP would make every attempt to use local subcontractors for any construction/installation. If possible, ECP would also work with local vendors for any acquisition of new equipment that might be needed because ECP was not promoting any particular brand, make or model. At the appropriate time, a local project manager(s) would also be employed to take over responsibilities of any on-site engineering management and supervision. In this way, ECP would not only save money and energy, but also create jobs and stimulate the local economy.
Independent Analysis is the Key
Too often, energy audits are conducted by large vendors or utility companies who are less interested in saving a city money and more interested in selling energy and expensive new equipment/services. A vendor’s solution to a problem is usually geared towards what he/she has to sell that month rather than how much money a city might save. As a result, utility overcharges are often overlooked and better scheduling and management are often ignored, especially when a local utility company is doing an energy audit of itself. Obviously, there is a conflict of interest, so an independent analysis will always net the best results.
ECP is independent and specifically geared towards helping cities and other large institutional users. ECP is not selling anything. ECP only gets paid if the client saves money; that’s incentive! As cities attempt to reinvent government, CC recommends that energy cost-savings be among their top priorities. Energy use is one budget item that is painless to cut; in fact, saving energy can be a real pleasure.
How To Qualify
Participation in the program is limited. Funds are dispensed on a first-come, first-serve basis. To qualify, a city must:
- Designate a person in the city’s general services or finance department who has access to utility billings and/or understands how this information is stored and collected as well as how it is organized and how it can be accessed.
- Coordinate the number of contracting authorities within the city if more than one exists (e.g., airport authority, library authority, park & recreation department, schools, etc.)
- Expedite the approval process for unsolicited proposals and professional services (i.e., ECP provides funding and therefore does not require a capital outlay, so cities are typically exempt from having to use competitive bidding to participate in the revolving loan fund).
APPA – Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers
APPA is a membership association of approximately 4,600 members, representing large institutional and industrial complexes, including but not limited to public and private schools, colleges and universities, hospital, military bases, and museums. In 1997, APPA’s Executive Director, Wayne Leroy, initiated a joint program with ECP for utility cost reduction and energy conservation management services to help reduce the cost of unregulated utilities for APPA’s members. Through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rebuild America Program and its Coalition of Community Partnerships, ECP made its program and attractive revolving loan fund available to a number of membership associations in the Washington, DC area (e.g., USCM, ICMA, NLC, NACo, SCI, etc.), but APPA wanted to market ECPs services directly to its membership and form its own APPA program.