County Issues

Capitalize on Energy Savings
William Prather, Peoria County Board
By taking steps to mitigate rising energy costs, Peoria County Government seeks to join pioneers DuPage and McHenry as the only county governments in Illinois’ 102 counties with a binding energy performance contract, a guaranteed savings contract that identifies, evaluates and recommends energy-efficient capital improvements over a multi-year term. Reduced energy costs can amount to increased savings of 15 to 35 percent. For local government, this means limited budgets can be stretched further, allowing us to direct taxpayers’ money where it really counts: toward the services we provide our citizens.

When contemplating capital spending costs for courthouse improvements, the Peoria County Board also considered the more obscure benefits of an energy performance contract that guaranteed savings, including additional operational savings and the attenuation of future capital improvements. Updating or replacing old and obsolete equipment with newer, more efficient systems would reduce maintenance and possibly eliminate repair costs. The streamlined, comprehensive nature of performance contracting allows government agencies and private business owners the ability to complete multiple energy-efficient projects simultaneously. Modern, energyefficient systems also increase property values and improve building marketability.

Peoria County is first and foremost accountable to the citizens we serve. That we do not take this responsibility lightly is evidenced in our decision to enter into an energy service contract. Once it was determined that the courthouse and other county facilities were good candidates for a performance contract, the next step was to select an appropriate energy service company (ESCO). We accomplished this by submitting a customized request for proposals to well reputed providers.

Subsequently, to realize energy savings in the county courthouse or any eligible facility, a criteria-driven energy audit is necessary to identify savings opportunities and evaluate each project’s potential; projects that pay for themselves within ten years are ideal. Audit results help create the roadmap that becomes the performance agreement for implementing and tracking your energy improvement project. The contract should clearly define roles and responsibilities, explicitly state how savings are determined and demonstrate how the guarantee will function.

Don’t let financing your energy performance contract be a stumbling block to future energy savings; for governments, an attractive financing option may be tax-exempt financing with an annually renewable lease-purchase agreement. Once the agreement is entered into, energy savings are guaranteed; if the savings do not materialize as outlined in the contract, the ESCO is responsible for the difference.

Energy reduction and increased savings notwithstanding, the journey we are beginning towards an Energy Star rating from the U.S. EPA or a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council is our most compelling reason for securing an energy performance contract. The latter is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, though either distinction would further cement Peoria County’s commitment to providing a healthy environment for our residents.

We encourage citizens to follow our lead in energy savings. Business owners, homeowners and renters alike can realize savings in a variety of ways. Learn how to conserve energy and save money at our free “What It Means to Be Green” seminar at Illinois Central College’s North Campus on Thursday, September 27th, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. To register, call 999-4545 or visit www.icc.edu/funshops and select “Special Interests.” IBI

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