The Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) recognized Bend this week for exceptional performance in a national competition to reduce energy use and win a $5 million prize. Bend ranked 17th out of 49 small- to medium-sized communities in the competition.
We joined the competition in January 2015 as The Bend Energy Challenge. We organized our team in partnership with the City of Bend, Bend La Pine Schools, Bend Park and Recreation District and local utilities Pacific Power, Central Electric Cooperative and Cascade Natural Gas. The competition focused on reducing residential and municipal energy use, and compared energy use during the two-year competition period of 2015 and 2016 against the previous two-year baseline. Communities competed to see who could reduce their per capita energy use the most. The final competition winner was Fargo, North Dakota, which will receive in-kind assistance from Georgetown to secure a $5 million loan (GUEP is no longer providing a cash prize to the winner).
Bend achieved the following results during the two-year competition:
· Reduced energy use by 1.8% per household.
· Avoided using enough electricity to power 2,188 average Oregon homes for one year.
· Avoided $2.8 million in energy costs.
· Avoided 21,439 metric tons of climate change gases CO2e.
“We are really proud of Bend’s performance in the competition,” said Lindsey Hardy, Program Director of The Bend Energy Challenge. “When we joined the competition, we believed that win or lose; our work would result in real reductions in energy use that paid off for Bend. The competition results show that’s exactly what happened.”
Bend was recognized as one of several high-performing communities that “championed the spirit of this competition and set an example for innovative energy savings,” said Uwe Brandes, director of the GUEP competition. “Bend’s work to reduce energy consumption and to develop innovative, replicable, scalable programs sets an example for other cities and counties. We are grateful for their enthusiasm and collaboration.”
The data gathered during the competition show that while Bend’s total energy use went up the energy use per household went down by 1.8%. Rapid growth, plus several new public facilities that came on line during the competition, were key factors in the increase in total energy used.
“It was the actions of homeowners and renters, together with local home builders and remodelers, and energy efficiency and solar contractors, that really made the difference for Bend,” said Hardy.
Homeowners took a wide range of actions to reduce their energy use, according to Hardy. “People turned off their lights, changed their thermostat settings, unplugged appliances, and washed clothes in cold water. They completed energy assessments of drafty houses and then added insulation and replaced old furnaces with super-efficient heat pumps. And some converted to rooftop solar and built new homes that are super-efficient,” she said.
Hardy also said that one specific action—converting to LED light bulbs—illustrates the power of many people doing just one thing. 3,230 homes in Bend installed 46,839 LED bulbs during the competition, which will save them 2,837,547 kWh of electricity and $332,857 annually. “That’s enough electricity to power 245 average Oregon homes for one year.”
Local governments also started to reduce energy use during the competition as well as identify ways to reduce use and shift to solar over the medium- and long-term.
· The City of Bend reduced energy use in its buildings by 11.5% and is hiring an energy service company to identify energy savings opportunities across its entire organization.
· Bend Parks and Recreation District has identified savings of up to $38,000 at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center and their district headquarters. They will be addressing these issues with technical assistance provided by the Energy Trust of Oregon Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program.
· Bend-La Pine Schools, in partnership with The Environmental Center, taught every 6th-grade student about energy conservation, ran energy reduction competitions among local schools to raise awareness of energy use and promote conservation, and also joined the SEM program.
Now that the two-year competition is over, The Bend Energy Challenge has evolved into The Energy Challenge of Central Oregon. We will continue to drive local actions that help residents, businesses, and local governments throughout the Central Oregon region reduce energy use and transition to a clean energy future.