Tierney Forum Focuses on Energy Savings

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Tierney forum focuses on energy savings By Kaitlin Melanson/ kmelanso@cnc.com Thursday, August 24, 2006

Congressmen John Tierney (D-Salem) hosted his third energy forum last Wednesday, this time focusing on educating members of municipal governments from around the North Shore of ways in which they can save both energy and money. Nearly 100 attendees, including some from Swampscott, filled the auditorium of the Carlton Elementary School in Salem, a "green" building featuring several of the innovative energy saving tools discussed during the assembly. Attendees were primarily municipal light department and school officials, as well as local selectmen. Representing Swampscott were Tara Gallagher of the Renewable Energy Committee and Martha Dansdill of locally based HealthLink. "As energy costs continue to climb, we wanted to bring together key experts on energy efficiency opportunities for local communities and schools so that they can take advantage of valuable energy saving and cost cutting options," Tierney said. Keynote speaker Warren Leon, director of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, shared tips on how to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to the forefront. "It is obvious we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil, but it's hard to get people to focus on energy, because they have the psychology of it all wrong," Leon said. "When people recycle their [big bulky newspaper] at the end of the week they feel accomplished. When you fill up your tank however you don't feel or see the pollution it's causing." Leon added, "What's even worse is electricity. A light switch feels so safe and clean, but we don't see the coal mines firing up every time we flip the switch. Anything we can do to make it feel more tangible makes a difference." Among many suggestions Leon made for lowering energy usage and cutting costs to focus on bigger, one-time projects rather than taking baby steps. "Buying a more energy-efficient refrigerator would have more of an impact than telling the kids to close the door faster," Leon said. "[Also], remember that some buildings can last over 50 years so it would be worth something to put more money up front and then save in on going operating costs." Aside from cost-saving opportunities, Bill White, senior analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency, reminded attendees of another long-term effect of high-energy use. "The energy we use is the No. 1 source of air pollution," White said. "Superior energy performance is important for reducing strain on energy supplies to avoid blackouts and national gas shortages." One way White suggested to achieve superior energy performance was by taking the Energy Star Challenge. Energy Star, a joint program of the EPA, challenges building owners to improve existing building efficiency by 10 percent or more. To help with achieving this goal, Energy Star offers a tool called "Portfolio Manager" to structures such as schools and office buildings, which helps set goals, measure progress over time and recognize high performance buildings. "Our nation's 14,300 kindergarten through 12th-grade school districts spend over $5 billion annually on energy, with one-third of this money being unnecessarily spent on high energy bills," White said. "This money could instead be invested in energy efficiency to improve lighting, acoustics, and air quality which would in turn create a better working and learning environment." Other events of the day included a panel discussion among representatives of major utility companies, including NStar, National Grid and Keyspan, sharing tips on programs and incentives currently available, with a great focus on finding out what can be done despite the costs so they will know what they can do when the money is available. For those who wondered how they could possibly implement such tools on their town's bud

Swampscott Reporter Aug 25, 2006 at 2:07 PM
Swampscott, MA swampscott@cnc.com