Here in Takoma Park, Maryland — just outside Washington, D.C. — my city is taking climate change so seriously, we’re trying to get the entire community to take a challenge to save energy.
And to sweeten the incentive, we’re competing for part of a $5 million prize offered by Georgetown University. News flash: it’s not too late if you want your community to get in on the fun, too.
Here’s how it works:
Georgetown University is offering an Energy Prize worth $5 million to one community that develops and implements a long-term energy efficiency plan over a two-year period. Communities with a population between 5,000 and 250,000 are eligible to compete to create an approach that is “replicable, scalable, and (leads to) continual reductions in the per capita energy consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities.”
“Our goal is to transform the way America uses energy…Today right now in America, we are wasting half the energy that we use…So we’re sitting on this vast reservoir of wasted energy and we have to mine for efficiency as expertly as we mine for coal, petroleum or natural gas.” ~ said Francis Slakey, a Georgetown physics professor who co-directs the university’s Program on Science in the Public Interest.
That “efficiency mining” is being done in the form of energy audits, increasing insulation, replacing old lights bulbs with more efficient models, promoting bicycling and mass transit, and more.
In Takoma Park, we’re combining efforts by homeowners with actions that local businesses and the city itself can take as well.
The city has done its part by replacing forty-nine streetlights with new LEDs. Just these new LEDs will help Takoma Park reduce its electricity usage by approximately 40,000 kilowatt hours. The new streetlights were paid for with a Community Development Block Grant and are a pilot project for both Takoma Park and Pepco, our electricity utility. One smart feature about the new lights is that they have built-in technology that will trigger automatic reporting to Pepco if the lights either go out, or if they’re on when they don’t need to be, like during the day.
The city has also set up bike-sharing kiosks in several locales to reduce automobile use.
We neighbors are supposed to do our part by having our homes “Green Home Certified.” That process starts with getting an energy audit to figure out what actions will earn your home a “Light Green Certification,” which is the easiest one to attain. Medium and Dark Green Certifications are even better.
True confession: Initially, I pooh-poohed participating because I figured my passive solar house was so efficient (featured here on the Moms Clean Air Force website), there probably was little I could do to save more energy.
Then, I looked at what it took to get certified even “light” green, the easiest category in the challenge. And guess what? My home didn’t make the cut!
Embarrassed, I signed up to participate. Then I decided I would help organize my neighborhood, too.
The competition runs through the end of 2016, so there is a lot of time left to make a difference. Over the coming months, I’ll be reporting back here on the steps I take to save energy at home and (hopefully) succeed in motivating my neighbors to do the same.
Until the next report, why don’t you check out the Georgetown University Energy Prize for your community?