N.C. Energy Office Wins Grant for Energy Efficiency Improvement Projects

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Energy Office has received a $532,134 U.S. Department of Energy grant to expand its award-winning Utility Savings Initiative to provide energy efficiency assistance to often overlooked or understaffed rural public school systems, community colleges and local governments.  The grant will enable the Energy Office to work with eight public school districts, eight community colleges and six local governments to plan, implement and finance energy efficiency improvements to buildings and other public infrastructure.

“Many of our public buildings and other infrastructure can provide many more years of good use at a reasonable cost to taxpayers if we can get control of the costs to operate them,” said Jon Williams, N.C. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Energy.  “With this grant, 22 agencies will be able extend their life and usefulness while curbing wasteful energy consumption, controlling government costs and freeing up capital improvement dollars for other needs.”

North Carolina is one of 22 states receiving a portion of the $14 million in the U.S. Energy Department’s State Energy Program 2012 Competitive Awards grants.  The grants were announced Wednesday by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“Deploying energy efficiency in our buildings, vehicles and industries creates jobs, grows markets for American-made products, reduced energy bills for families and businesses and makes the American economy more competitive,” Chu said.

The goals of the federal program included: increasing energy efficiency in public facilities while implementing building retrofit programs or strategies across as broad a segment of the state’s public building portfolio; stimulating energy efficiency actions to support investment in cost-effective energy efficiency to achieve statewide energy savings goals; and developing a public facilities energy retrofit program that can be used successfully to retrofit public facilities throughout the state and across many public sectors.

The state Energy Office’s Utility Savings Initiative group expects to be move quickly by identifying projects from the waiting list compiled from competitive grant applications made through the federal Recovery Act solicitations.  Energy audits of buildings and a comprehensive strategic energy plan were requirements of those applications so there is a “shovel-ready” waiting list of potential projects.

Performance contracts, an investment-grade method of financing energy improvements with the money saved as a result of the upgrades, will be designed for the 22 agencies and some projects could be finished in as few as nine months while others may need up to two years to complete.  Along with the upgrades and retrofits, a long-term data collection system will be used to collect and track energy savings and provide important information for other agencies contemplating investments in energy efficiency improvements.

The Utility Savings Initiative has developed a strong track-record in conserving energy and saving taxpayer dollars by controlling the state’s utility bills.  Since the program’s inception in fiscal year 2002-03, an investment of approximately $11.5 million has produced more than $417 million in avoided utility costs.  Energy consumption in state facilities is down 18 percent while energy costs have increased 44 percent.  Had the Utility Savings Initiative not been in place taxpayers would have paid an additional $82.8 million for utilities.

The news release from the U.S. Department of Energy is available online at: