Last week, Boston was ranked the #1 city for energy efficiency by the ACEEE for the second time. We sat down with Bradford Swing, the City of Boston’s Director of Energy Policy and Programs, in order to learn more about current and future energy efficiency programs in Boston.
What is ACEEE and what does it mean for Boston to be ranked as the number one energy efficient city yet again?
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has once again ranked Boston the number one energy efficient city in the nation. This is the second time we have received the number one ranking. The first time in 2013, ACEEE ranked 34 cities. This year ACEEE ranked 51 cities. Boston received 82 out of a possible 100 points, improving our 2013 score by 5 points. Boston is recognized as nation-leading for community-wide initiatives, buildings policies, energy and water utility policies and transportation.
What are some key findings in the 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard? What lead to the 5 point increase from 2013 to 2014?
We are recognized for the Renew Boston (RB) initiative with our utility partners Eversource, our electric utility, and National Grid, our natural gas utility. Our Renew Boston Program ensures that residents and businesses maximize the benefits of the nation-leading state efficiency programs. ACEEE has recognized Massachusetts as the number one state for energy state for energy efficiency four years in a row.
What are some key factors that make the City of Boston a leader in energy efficiency?
ACEEE’s ongoing recognition of Boston as the #1 energy efficient city specifically highlights the RB initiative. Renew Boston ensures that urban residential weatherization happens for both single family homes and for duplexes and triple deckers--the iconic building type so prevalent in Boston. One of the reasons for the #1 ranking is the Whole Building Initiative, the pilot program that utilities announced in June 2013 that allows us to focus on all the units of a duplex or triple decker at once. And by having a specific whole building incentive, we are able to weatherize all the units of a building and thus provide renters with weatherization services directly. In Boston, 67% of residents rent. Renters pay into the system with the efficiency charge on their bill and deserve the better program access that RB offers. Renew Boston Small Business is another reason for our #1 ranking, a program delivered in partnership with utilities and the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development, Office of Business Development.
What’s next in terms of energy planning in Boston?
Boston knows it needs to continue to innovate and deliver nation-leading energy efficiciency programs in order to maintain our #1 ranking. We have a dedicated energy system planner at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the City's planning and economic development agency. Our Energy Planning Fellow is working with MIT to complete a citywide energy study. This study will model the energy demand of every building in the city, which will enable us to locate zones of the city that are best suited for developing energy supply and microgrids with combined heat and power (CHP) and other forms of distributed generation--especially renewable distributed generation. The city is working with our utility partners on the planning of a pilot microgrid that will demonstrate the benefits of district energy: (1) lower total cost of energy, (2) resiliency during broader grid outages, and (3) lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Another initiative that will ensure that we maintain our national leadership is the Renew Boston Trust. In December 2014, Mayor Walsh announced this important self financing initiative for municipal buildings. By focusing on self-financing energy efficiency improvements, we are working toward developing investment-grade projects and are, as Mayor Walsh announced, moving “from an era of incentives to an era of true investment.” Thanks to the City Energy Project, we have hired a subject-matter expert who is working to develop on-ramps to project finance through energy performance contracting for the municipal, non-profit institutional, commercial and multi-family housing building sectors.