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The consumption of electricity, natural gas, kerosene, and heating oil within residential, commercial, and industrial buildings (or facilities) generates over 79.5% of the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions community-wide. Given that Baltimore City has four separate, distinct seasons, building energy efficiency presents a prime opportunity for GHG reductions and associated cost savings. Energy efficiency actions can reduce utility bills and lead to long-term energy cost savings and reduced risk of rising energy prices.
“…building energy efficiency presents a significant opportunity for GHG reductions and associated cost savings.”
These reductions and operations savings can be achieved through measures that directly improve energy efficiency of existing and future buildings and that promote long-term behavior change through audits and disclosure of energy performance. Changing individual and collective behavior so as to realize these benefits will require engagement of numerous City departments, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Additionally, the City hopes to further reduce emissions by encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. Whether through energy efficiency or clean generation, the implemented measures will have lasting implications on both the economy and the environment.
Seeing Progress in Baltimore
In recent years, the City has made great strides in saving energy. We have worked to modernize city-owned buildings and found ways to reduce energy use with new lighting fixtures, the installation of a solar array at Back River Wastewater Treatment plant, and building envelope upgrades. We have also worked to help residents save energy with programs such as the innovative Baltimore Energy Challenge, and expanded weatherization services.
The Climate Action Plan (CAP) calls for these programs to continue, while also developing new programs and strategies to help reach our goal of a 15% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020. In order to reach this goal, the CAP will promote renewable energy generation, as well as energy retrofits, waste diversion, and water efficiency strategies. CAP measures will help citizens save energy and money, as well as encourage the use of sustainable modes of transit, high density urban land-use, and increased tree plantings.
Baltimore Energy Challenge
As one of the initial projects stemming from the Baltimore Sustainability Plan, the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, in partnership with the Baltimore Community Foundation, launched the Baltimore Energy Challenge (BEC) to empower households to reduce their energy use and has since expanded to include programs for businesses and non-profits. Based on social marketing research suggesting that just a few neighbors taking conscious steps to conserve energy can encourage an entire neighborhood to follow suit, BEC challenges participating communities to achieve energy reductions against their own baseline.
In its initial phase, BEC was a 9-month pilot program in nine Baltimore communities designed to raise awareness, reduce residential energy use, stimulate demand for energy conservation services, and learn lessons on how to motivate behavior change related to reducing residential energy use. After the pilot, lessons learned helped to expand BEC city-wide and connected the program to other efforts aimed at creating jobs that make Baltimore homes healthier and more energy efficient. BEC has the potential to be a national model of community mobilization, social marketing, and verifiable energy use and GHG emissions reductions.
CREATES is a comprehensive, multi-agency program that coordinates resources to effectively provide energy saving services to residents, businesses, and non-profits throughout Baltimore. Through the Maryland Public Service Commission’s Customer Investment Fund, the City of Baltimore was awarded money to support the CREATES program.
Similar to the BEC, the mission of CREATES is to promote services that effectively support human dignity and self-determination, promote self-sufficiency, and to provide opportunities for low-income families.
CREATES expands on effective existing City services to streamline the administration of energy efficiency programs, including energy conservation education and outreach, in-home energy savings kit installation, energy assistance programs, weatherization assistance programs, and non-profit and small business energy retrofits. CREATES also goes beyond these services to provide trees and white roofing technologies to reduce the impact of urban heat islands on our neighborhoods.