County Going Green

Charlevoix County forming an action plan to save energy and money

Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
(231) 222-2119

The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners recently received the results of an in-depth energy audit conducted by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG).  The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action Plan is part of NWMCOG’s  Renewables and Energy Efficiency for Local Governments project which is funded by a Michigan Public Service Commission grant.[private]

“The program is helping county governments in Northwest Michigan implement energy efficiency and renewable energy applications,” the report states. “Each county is receiving administrative, technical, and financial assistance to overcome existing obstacles and jump-start a long-term energy action plan.”  The report will be presented during the 9:30 a.m. Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners’ regular Wednesday, Dec. 8 meeting.

“If we can save money for the taxpayers then we really need to take advantage of every opportunity we can,” said Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2). “Heating bills and energy costs are a huge factor in people’s day to day lives and that rings true at the county level, too.”

The public service commission provided $40,000 to pay for this action plan which will establish goals and plot the course for the county to maximize its level of energy efficiency.  “The … grant money will fund the short-term actions,” the plan states. “The mid-term and long-term actions will be funded by contributing 50 percent of the cost savings to an energy savings account and are covered in the body of the plan.”

Charlevoix County officials may choose how far they will pursue the plan beyond its program requirements.

Plan of Action
According to the audit results, the $40,000 grant will be spent on programmable thermostats, wall insulation and HVAC equipment for the Animal Control building, and also for new lighting and changes to vending machine energy usage. See TABLE 1 for the complete breakdown.  “To demonstrate the power of the energy savings account a recommended five-year reinvestment scenario that could save a cumulative total of $58,617 in energy (was devised),” the report states. “This reinvestment scenario is based on gaining the highest economic return and could be changed based on imminent needs or if higher yielding energy saving opportunities were to be found.”

State of Energy
While America uses a quarter of the world’s energy, it only possesses 3 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas.
“Since fossils fuels currently provide over 86 percent of the world energy needs, rising demand and limited supply make a significant rise in energy costs seem inevitable,” the report states. “Michigan’s dependence on fossil fuels is already very costly. We currently pay $18 billion each year to import coal, oil and natural gas.”  Furthermore, “Meanwhile, the scientific community is raising its voice ever louder about the environmental impacts of extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels.”

To create the report, the 2009 calendar year facility energy usage was summarized and an independent auditor performed investment-grade energy audits of county facilities.

“The County Building and Sheriff’s Office are performing above the national and regional averages, but that Animal Control building is performing well below the national and regional averages,” the report states. “It uses 30 percent more energy and costs 29 percent per square foot to operate compared to other county animal control facilities within the region.”

According to the report, the courthouse was eligible for an Energy Star rating and received an impressive rating of 86 which makes it eligible for receiving and Energy Star certification plaque. Neither the Animal Control nor Sheriff facility is eligible because their facility types are not currently eligible.  The three facilities combined put out as much greenhouse gas emissions as approximately 168 automobiles annually. It takes 187 acres of pine forest to sequester that much carbon dioxide.

The county facilities put out 85 tons of municipal solid waste with 11 tons of mixed paper recycled.  At this time Charlevoix County’s estimated recycling rate among County governmental facilities is 11% which is slightly better than the average among participating Northwestern Michigan counties, but significantly below the U.S. National Average.

Energy Efficiency
By changing from old style computer monitors to new LED/LCD styles and using energy-saving computer savings, the county can save $60 to $80 per computer and $6 to $10 per lap top per year for a total of just over $4,000.  By using energy conserving lighting, the county could save nearly $2,752 annually.  By using the heating and cooling systems more wisely, the county could save $4,783 annually.

“If this schedule is followed it is estimated that in five years the $40,000 of grant money would provide a total of $58,617 in energy savings,”the report states. “This schedule could potentially be significantly accelerated if the County decided to also implement some of the low and no cost energy conservation strategies.”[/private]

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