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Energy Committee Reviews Climate Change, Building Energy Efficiency, Offshore Wind Development

By Debra DeHaney-Howard
January 28, 2013

The Energy Committee met January 17 during the Winter Meeting of the Conference of Mayors and discussed several energy related issues, including climate change, energy efficiency in buildings, and offshore wind power development.

Conference of Mayors Committee Vice Chair Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, who led presentations by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Conference of Mayors President Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Philips Chairman Emeritus Zia Eftekhar, told panel members that “We need to continue our leadership role in defining our nation’s energy policy in ways that will be economically and environmentally beneficial to our cities.”

Energy Secretary Describes Climate Changes

Chu briefed committee members on the progress of the Energy Department’s response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Sandy and other weather-related events. “The Energy Department is here to help cities rebuild after a catastrophic event…rebuilding in an energy efficient way,” said Chu.

During his remarks, Chu provided panel members with a historical perspective on climate changes over several decades. “There is a reasonably good chance the frequency of violent storms is increasing. I’ve been going through a lot of data and that is absolutely turning out to be true in terms of floods and other things,” he said.

When asked about future funding for energy efficiency programs at the Energy Department, Chu stated that “We support energy efficiency; however, we don’t expect the budget to go up but down, given the budget deficit and fiscal issues.”

Nutter Touts City’s Building Initiative

“Over the past five years there has been a renewed focus on how we use energy in this country, led by President Obama and Secretary Chu’s commitment to energy efficiency and innovation. The Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act supported hundreds of millions of dollars of energy efficiency projects and programs across the country, with some impressive results,” said Nutter during his remarks before the Energy Committee. “Cities are poised to make smart energy investments that would reap long-term savings, create jobs, and reduce their impact on the environment, and EECBG was the catalyst to get that moving.”

Speaking on how energy benchmarking and disclosure laws are emerging as an important policy tool for cities, Nutter said, “Philadelphia is excited to continue its leadership in sustainability with our energy benchmarking and disclosure law, which we passed last spring in collaboration with a supportive city council,” he said. “This cutting-edge strategy allows us to target the biggest source of energy use and carbon emissions in the city. When we start using real energy data to improve our buildings, quality of life for our residents goes up, and energy bills—along with greenhouse gas emissions—go down.” Other cities with benchmarking and disclosure laws in place include Austin, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle.

New Bedford Mayor Embraces Offshore Wind Power

Highlighting the job growth potential in developing offshore wind power, Mitchell said, “As the state’s designated staging area for the nation’s first offshore wind energy project, the city of New Bedford is excited about the tremendous potential for this emerging industry to generate jobs. Wind energy means not just erecting turbines, but transporting complex machinery and equipment great distances, and developing new industrial technologies. The ripple effects will spread right up the supply chain and across our entire economy.”

Leading wind energy experts report that an increase in offshore wind energy development will have a significant impact on job creation and will spur manufacturing. “Wind energy will also strengthening our local economy, fostering our energy security, and protecting our environment for future generations,” said Mitchell.

Conference of Mayors-Philips Lighting Partnership

“Philips is a firm believer in the strength of public-private partnerships. That is why we remain so committed in our support of The U.S. Conference of Mayors. And that is why we are so pleased to be part of the Mayor’s Lighting Partnership, dedicated to assisting mayors in seeing how new lighting technologies can help their cities save money, improve public safety, and promote economic development,” said Eftekhar, during his remarks.

Noting the energy consumption in cities, Eftekhar said, “Cities consume 70 percent of the electricity used in the U.S.; and lighting accounts for about 20 percent of this electrical consumption. This presents a big opportunity for cities to retrofit their existing infrastructure and save money. With new LED technologies your city can save as much a 70 percent in lighting costs.”