What is the Energy Steering Committee?
The Energy Steering Committee (ESC) is distinct from the York Energy Efficiency Committee (a.k.a. York Goes Green), although their goals are complimentary. Whereas YEEC is a citizen’s group open to all York residents, the ESC is an advisory committee (five regular members and two alternates) appointed by the Board of Selectmen. YEEC’s mission is primarily advocacy and education with the goal of helping the community of York become greener and more sustainable. The ESC has the narrower goal of improving the energy efficiency of municipal buildings, vehicles, and infrastructure and of helping the town take advantage of renewable energy options.
What has the Energy Steering Committee done?
Since 2009, the Energy Steering Committee has worked to identify opportunities for saving future energy use in municipal buildings through improvements in weatherization and insulation and by installing more efficient electrical and heating equipment. In three separate warrant articles specified for this purpose, York voters have, by large margins, approved a total of $300,000. These expenditures have been part of the long-term capital plan of the town and are consistent with York’s Comprehensive Plan. In December of 2012, the ESC recommended postponing the next $100,000 warrant article because the committee still had a significant amount of money left. During 2013, most of the remaining funds were spent, and the committee requested that another $100,000 article be placed on the May 2014 budget referendum. Return to this site for more details on the projects that the ESC has completed (coming soon).
What is the status of the May 2014 budget referendum article on energy improvements?
Unlike in previous years, the Budget Committee asked the ESC to specify exactly what was going to be funded by this appropriation. Because of the short notice and because the committee had been busy with two large projects — insulating and weather-sealing the Village Fire Station and installing a new boiler at the Grant House — they were not in a position to specify exactly how they intended to use the next round of funding. The only two projects that were definitely planned were the replacement of old and inadequate truck bay lighting with high-efficiency fluorescent lights at both the York Beach Fire Station and the York Village Fire Station.
Beyond these two improvements, the committee indicated that it intended to pursue the same careful and data-based process that was used in the past to identify those improvements that yielded the greatest return on investment. The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously (5-0) to recommend passage of Article 43 in the May referendum. However, in a split decision, the Budget Committee voted 4-3 against recommending Article 43.
How is Article #43 worded?
The main part of Article #43 is as follows:
FORTY-THREE: Shall the Town (1) approve funding for Alternate Energy Solutions and Energy Efficiency Solution; (2) appropriate a sum not to exceed $100,000 for the cost of this project: and (3) hereby ordain to fund this appropriation; authorize the Treasurer and the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen to issue, at one time or from time to time, general obligation securities of the Town of York, Maine, including temporary notes in anticipation of the sale thereof, in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $100,000 with the discretion to fix the date(s), maturity(ies), denomination(s), interest rate(s), places(s) of payment, call(s) for redemption, form(s), and other details of said securities, including execution and delivery of said securities against payment therefore, and to provide for the sale thereof, to be delegated to the Treasurer and the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen? This article appropriates $1,000 from taxation, which is the estimated first-year cost of interest and cost of debt.
Statement of Fact: This article would approve funding for capital improvements related to energy solutions and conservations at Town- owned properties, including installation of a solar photovoltaic system on a municipal building.
What does the ESC plan to do with this allocation of $100,000?
The ESC has now made significant energy efficiency improvements to the five municipal buildings that were identified in a 2009 professional energy study to be the highest priorities. Tentatively, the next steps would be as follows:
1. Examine in detail the latest municipal building energy bills. Compare electrical and heating fuel usage before and after renovations as soon as there is enough data to evaluate improvements.
2. Using the latest data from all town buildings, calculate the total energy used per square foot to identify opportunities for additional improvements. If the root causes or the most effective solutions are not clear, the ESC would probably recommend contracting with a professional energy auditor or engineer to ensure that any further improvements would have a reasonable return on investment.
3. Study the feasibility of installing a solar photovoltaic array on an appropriate municipal building or buildings. At today’s prices, a solar electric system is expected to pay for itself in around 10 years. As the cost of grid power increases, that system would pay for itself even sooner. And of course, for the remaining 20-30 years of the life of the solar installation, all electricity produced would be virtually free.
4. Examine other opportunities for reducing the town’s energy bills, including, but not limited to, street lights and fleet vehicle fuel use.
The Energy Steering Committee is an advisory committee only. It is made up of a group of dedicated volunteers who are concerned both about minimizing waste and pollution and about saving real dollars for future taxpayers. As a further check, each of the ESC’s recommended improvements is first presented to and approved by the Board of Selectmen before spending any money.
What else does the Energy Steering Committee do?
Whenever possible, the Energy Steering Committee will work with municipal departments, the school system, and appointed building committees to advise them of strategies for “building in” energy efficiency for all major renovations and new construction projects. Most of these strategies are based on principles of sound design and do not necessarily require spending more money during construction. However, if an additional investment can be shown to lead to a more energy efficient and more economical operation over the long run, the ESC may recommend expenditure of designated energy funds.
What can citizens do to save taxpayer dollars and energy for the town?
The members of YEEC believe in the mission of the ESC and in importance of continued funding to support its efforts to save the town money and energy. To this end, YEEC will be purchasing and placing signs around town ahead of the May 17 referendum expressing the essence of our choice: GO GREEN – SAVE GREEN – YES on #43. Keep an eye out for these signs, but more importantly, please be sure to cast your ballot to support a more sustainable York.