October marks National Energy Awareness Month

Government has long been criticized for being wasteful; however, federal, state and local governments recently set goals to reduce energy use and are making progress toward such goals.

Recently, the Obama administration declared October as National Energy Awareness Month, a national effort to underscore how central energy is to our national prosperity, security, and environmental well-being.

Former President George Bush signed into law the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established several goals and standards to reduce energy use in existing and new federal buildings.

Section 431 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 increased the federal energy reduction goal set just two years prior to 3 percent per year, resulting in a 30 percent greater efficiency by 2015.

The Obama administration recently issued Executive Order 13693, adopting new reduction targets for fiscal years after 2015, requiring federal buildings to achieve an additional 2.5 percent reduction in energy consumption annually.

As New Hampshire’s largest energy user, the state government has embarked on its own program to lead by example by reducing its fossil fuel energy use by 21 percent per square foot, saving $10 million in energy costs since 2005, and is expected to avoid nearly $87 million in energy expenditures over the next 20 years.

Early this year, the state government was tasked with further reductions in fossil fuel use, as compared to a 2005 baseline, by: 30 percent by 2020; 40 percent by 2025; and 50 percent by 2030. It will also work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state passenger vehicle fleet by 30 percent by 2030.

The town of Hollis is also exploring similar goals – specifically, to become fossil fuel-free by 2029. Just last spring, the town’s school budget committee approved $100,000 to analyze various renewable-energy options and provide a recommendation for a bond to develop a woodchip-based district heating system supplemented by a 100-kilowatt electric solar system and other solar thermal solutions.

The 100-kilowatt solar array will be a pilot program and will educate the public regarding system output, electricity savings and emissions reductions using displays located throughout town.

Hollis has already had the heating and hot water systems in the town hall and the police department swapped out for wood-pellet systems. These changes cut the energy costs by 50 percent and have kept the money spent on fuel in New Hampshire.

The town has also implemented energy efficiency and energy conservation measures using a $250,000 federal grant, helping the town save more than $65,000 a year in electricity costs.

Hollis’ energy improvement investments thus far were funded in part by proceeds from New Hampshire’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is how our state is already on its way to meeting federal carbon emission limits set by the Federal Clean Power Plan.

Therefore, continued support for these statewide and federal programs is important so that other towns such as Hollis, including their residents and businesses, can seek financial aid to overcome the upfront costs of investments to reduce energy costs.

Call or write our senators asking them to support our federal and state policies, such as the Clean Power Plan and RGGI, that reduce carbon emissions that contribute to sea-level rise and extreme weather events.

Venu Rao serves as chairman of the Hollis Energy Committee.