Providence Joins Effort to Cut Climate Pollution

By ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s capital is one of 10 new cities joining the City Energy Project, a united effort to address the largest source of energy use and climate pollution in America’s urban centers and buildings. The project is expected to save Providence residents and businesses as much as $20 million on their annual energy bills by 2030, according to local officials.

By 2030, the 20 participating cities combined have the potential to save annually more than $1.5 billion in energy bills and reduce carbon pollution by more than 9.6 million metric tons, equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road for a year, according to the mayor’s office.

“Last spring I set a goal for Providence to become carbon neutral by 2050,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said. “Since buildings account for 70 percent of our citywide carbon emissions, this investment in the energy efficiency of our largest buildings will have a significant impact.”

A joint project of the Institute for Market Transformation and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the City Energy Project works with participating cities to make buildings more energy efficient, boosting local economies and reducing harmful pollution.

Besides Providence, these cities/county recently joined the initiative: Des Moines, Iowa; Fort Collins, Colo.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; New Orleans; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Reno, Nev.; San Jose, Calif.; St. Louis; and St. Paul, Minn.

“Mayors have the power to make real progress in combating climate change just by looking to their skylines,” said Shelley Poticha, director of the NRDC’s Urban Solutions program. “The City Energy Project works with mayors ... to develop plans that reduce climate pollution and wasted energy in buildings.”

Funded by a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, the project launched in January 2014 with 10 cities: Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Orlando; Philadelphia; and Salt Lake City.

In December 2015, the project’s funders announced an additional $10.5 million investment to expand the project’s reach.

If U.S. buildings were considered a nation, they would rank third in global energy consumption, using more primary energy than all major energy-consuming nations except the United States and China, according to the project. Buildings also are the single-largest user of energy and source of carbon pollution in the United States, with much of the energy consumed wasted by inefficient systems and operations.

In 2015, commercial and industrial buildings in Providence used 10,454,392 mmbtus, which is equal to nearly 1 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to city officials.

Through the City Energy Project, Providence will work with stakeholders to develop a plan to significantly reduce building energy use. The initiative also will help Providence develop energy-efficiency solutions to support the following goals:

Promote efficient building operations. Strong building energy performance can be achieved through efficient operations and maintenance, and the training of facilities personnel.

Encourage private investment. Commonsense solutions to financial and legal barriers to energy efficiency should be adopted to increase private investment in building energy improvements.

Bolster city leadership. Cities will lead by example and reduce taxpayer-funded energy consumption in municipal buildings, and encourage the private sector to match their actions.

Promote transparency. Building energy performance information should be transparent and accessible to enable market demand and competition for energy-efficient buildings.