Harp pledges to reduce energy consumption

Mayor Toni Harp pledged to reduce energy consumption in New Haven by
20 percent by 2018.
Mayor Toni Harp pledged to reduce energy consumption in New Haven by 20 percent by 2018. Photo by Isaac Stanley-Becker .

At a crowded press conference last week, Mayor Toni Harp signed a pledge to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent in New Haven by 2018.

The pledge consists of two major goals: reducing energy consumption by 20 percent in municipal buildings and converting 20 percent of New Haven’s current municipal electricity use to renewable energy. The city will work collaboratively with United Illuminating — the utility company that serves the New Haven area — to monitor consumption.

“I think that New Haven has been very forward looking [in energy policy] in the past, and there’s still room for improvement,” said Robert Wall, associate director of the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA).

The energy pledge is one component of a larger initiative administered by the CEFIA and the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. By assigning point values to different energy-saving activities that New Haven undertakes — for example,  three points for every solar photovoltaic system installed, five points for every solar hot water heater installed — the city can qualify for different grants and renewable energy systems every time they reach 100 points.

One of the goals of the CEFIA and the Energy Efficiency Fund is to drive down the soft costs associated with renewable energy, and solar photovoltaic energy in particular, Wall said. By encouraging installers to implement streamline practices, the city will have greater access to renewable energy projects, which will in turn generate more points towards future rewards that can be used for clean energy projects.

Wall also foresees that the city will be able to finance around half of their renewable energy goal of 20 percent through a program called C-PACE, which allows building owners to pay for clean energy through a voluntary assessment on their property tax bill. Energy efficiency improvements such as energy efficient boilers, upgraded insulation, or solar installations are financed through an added charge on the owner’s property tax bill.

Harp also announced that in addition to the pledge, the city would create a new Youth Conservation Initiative, a summer program employing local high school students to promote sustainability and conservation. The program will be funded in part by United Illuminating.

According to director of youth services Jason Bartlett, the program will employ 15 high school students, who will canvass moderate-income housing letting residents know what types of energy-saving opportunities are available to them either for free or at a minimal cost. The students will also work on various projects around the city with the focus of conservation, cleanup, and rainwater, as well as helping out with programming to engage middle school students on weekends.

According to Laurence Grotheer, the spokesman for City Hall, the program will focus on three objectives toward the larger goal of energy reduction: provide jobs, help residents save money, and reduce the demand for power, which in turn Grotheer expects will drive down the cost of power.

“That’s kind of the idea of the program — so that we can meet some of the goals that we have and just be more green as a city,” Bartlett said.

Each student employee of the Conservation Initiative will receive a free bicycle.

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