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Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:33:03 AM CST

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Sarah Kollmorgen/MEDILL

Chicago will work on boosting energy efficiency in many of its buildings in the new City Energy Project.

10 cities, one energy-efficient goal

by Sarah Kollmorgen
Jan 30, 2014

Chicago is one of 10 cities that have joined the City Energy Project, an initiative to craft personalized city plans to increase energy efficiency in large buildings. By the end of the three-year project, organizers hope the current crop of cities will be models for other cities around the country and globe.

“We wanted cities that were interested in moving forward aggressively,” said Laurie Kerr, the director of the City Energy Project with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The City Energy Project also tried to select cities that met a diverse set of criteria, to prove that improved energy efficiency could be implemented anywhere, she said.

The council and the Institute for Market Transformation developed the project, which will be funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.

In addition to Chicago, the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City will participate in the program.

“The short story with Chicago is that there’s a lot of good work going on,” said Kerr. “Chicago has already gone down this road.”

In an email, Karen Weigert, Chicago’s chief sustainability officer, said the city is very pleased to be joining the City Energy Project: "Expanding energy efficiency will deliver cost savings for buildings, support local jobs and reduce environmental impact."

The City Energy Project will work on energy efficiency in large, existing structures, such as commercial buildings, bigger apartment complexes or convention centers, said Cliff Majersik, the executive director for the Institute of Market Transformation.

Part of the project’s funding will be used to hire a City Energy Project representative for each city, said Majersik. The representatives will work with their cities to create plans specific to each city’s needs, whether that means developing new energy-efficiency initiatives or expanding on current ones, he said.

Twice a year, the City Energy Project representatives will meet to discuss best practices, problems and strategies, Majersik said. “We have a lot of really quantitative metrics that we’ll be measuring. … We’ll be tracking it closely and we’ll be reporting.”

While some energy initiatives will involve retrofitting current buildings—such as replacing lighting with energy-efficient florescent or LED lighting—other initiatives will be aimed at people, he said. For example, the City Energy Project may work with cleaning crews so they turn off lights after hours.

Stesano Galiasso, a research engineer at the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center, said that energy efficiency could be greatly improved by altering human behaviors, such as encouraging people to turn off lights. “This consumption can easily be avoided,” he said. “People are reluctant to change because they’re used to their standard of living.”

Majersik said he expects plans across the board to be in place within about a year, depending on each city’s strategy.

Although the City Energy Project is a three-year program, funding from the philanthropies will only last through the end of next year, said Kerr. After that, cities will be responsible for their own funding. “I think it’s going to be a very exciting and impactful project,” she said.