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Energy Efficiency – Saving Dollars for the Public Sector

EDF Climate Corps places specially trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to build the business case for energy efficiency. During the course of a 10-12 week summer engagement, EDF Climate Corps fellows analyze energy-saving opportunities and develop custom energy-efficiency investment plans that cut costs and carbon emissions. Connect with us at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps and twitter.com/EDFCC.

By Andrew Louis Willens, Climate Corps

Even with global warming making headlines, it’s tough to find resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when budgets are shrinking in the public sector.

Fortunately, there’s a solution that often costs little or nothing – energy efficiency. Energy efficiency represents an enormous opportunity to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the U.S., where buildings consume over 70 percent of electricity and emit more than a third of GHGs.

By investing in energy efficiency, schools, governments and other public institutions can reduce the amount of energy they consume, the GHGs they emit and capture a portion of $1.2 trillion – the amount leading researchers believe the U.S. could save through energy efficiency.

If improving building energy efficiency were as simple as flipping a switch, however, the public sector could easily cash in on this opportunity. Everyone would be doing it. But, unfortunately, limited resources, information gaps and organizational barriers can stand in the way.

EDF Climate Corps, a fellowship program run by Environmental Defense Fund, helps organizations overcome these barriers. EDF places specially trained graduate students in cities, schools and even Fortune 1000 companies to sleuth out opportunities in energy efficiency and develop custom plans to draw out the savings – in energy and dollars.

In the last four years, Climate Corps fellows have uncovered energy efficiency opportunities in organizations that could:

• Cut 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas use annually, equal to the annual energy use of 100,000 homes;
• Avoid the emission of over 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – a GHG – every year, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 cars; and
• Save $1 billion in net operational costs over the project lifetimes

In the last four years, EDF has placed 85 fellows in public organizations. In the  past five months, 39 fellows researched energy efficiency in Oakland, Cal., and identified over $10 million in potential savings in New Orleans. They also worked with schools in primary, secondary and higher education, advancing Oberlin College toward carbon neutrality and identifying $2 million in savings at Boston Public Schools

After pursuing efficiency in a broad variety of workplaces, the fellows have impressive stories to tell. At Howard University, in Washington, D.C., a fellow helped capture $1 million in grant funding from a local utility. Another fellow helped the City of Cleveland develop its Climate Action Plan. And a fellow working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – America’s largest publicly owned utility – helped restructure its incentive program that gives energy efficiency grants to local nonprofits.

For the next six months, you can read the best of these stories in PA Times. EDF and ASPA are teaming up to show you how the public administrators of tomorrow – and today – can save dollars, kilowatt hours and carbon dioxide through energy efficiency. Overcoming the obstacles to $1.2 trillion may be easier than you think.


Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems by linking science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with EDF at twitter.com/EnvDefenseFund and facebook.com/EnvDefenseFund.

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