City shows that energy generation balances energy and fuel use
On the eve of Earth Day, City of Spokane officials announced that the City has effectively achieved net zero energy consumption across all municipal facilities and services, saving taxpayer dollars and helping to protect the environment.
A new analysis completed by the City’s Environmental Programs office shows that the City’s energy generation essentially equals its use of electricity, natural gas, and fuel. Moreover, the City’s energy production—primarily hydropower at Upriver Dam and electricity from steam at the Waste to Energy Facility and the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility—is considered renewable by the federal government, most states and countries.
“I am proud to celebrate this astonishing accomplishment resulting from years of innovation at every level of City operations,” says Mayor David Condon. “By diligently managing the facilities that create clean, renewable energy for our community and promoting energy conservation by all City departments, we are using no more energy that we create. Not many cities can say that. Our announcement helps us distinguish ourselves as a sustainable, resilient City, which supports our commitment to promote a thriving community and robust economy.”
“As the City Council and Mayor worked to develop our Strategic Plan, we thought our stretch goal would be to achieve net zero energy consumption,” says Council Member Amber Waldref, who leads the Council’s Public Works Committee. “But today, we get to tell you that the work we’ve put into energy-saving initiatives over the last decade has already paid off.”
To determine the City’s net energy usage, the City compiled information on fuel usage across its fleet of hundreds of vehicles and on natural gas and electricity usage from its dozens of buildings, including City Hall, fire stations, libraries, operational facilities, and more, and from things like pump stations, street lights, and traffic signals. Then, it gathered information on its energy generation. All of the data was converted to a single measurement format of MMBTUs for comparison.
For 2015, the City used 683,000 MMBTUs and generated nearly the same amount at 675,000 MMBTUs. Numbers for 2016 still are being compiled, but early estimates show that the amount of energy generated in 2016 exceeded the amount used by the City.
The City has been working steadily over the last decade or more to reduce its energy consumption as part of work to be more sustainable and to reduce costs. The City has:
- Began work to convert its garbage fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas.
- Adopted a policy that require new vehicles to be more fuel efficient than the vehicles they replace.
- Built the new energy-efficient Spokane Central Service Center to replace aging and inefficient buildings at the former Normandie complex.
- Installed software that powers down computers when they aren’t in use.
- Replaced the bulbs in traffic signals across the City with LED bulbs.
- Completed a series of other changes, like installing more energy-efficient motors at water pump stations, changing out lighting in City facilities with more energy-efficient bulbs, and upgrading HVAC systems.
Today, the City is considering options for adding more renewable power generation and exploring options for additional investments in “smart” technology that saves energy.
The City is exploring the addition of solar on City property, which would increase the City’s portfolio of renewable energy generation and possibly serve as an offset to requirements under the state’s new Clean Air Rule, which is intended to reduce carbon emissions from point sources. The City’s Waste to Energy Facility is included in the rule.
Additionally, this month, the City launched a test of technology that automatically dims street lighting when traffic volumes drop at night. The technology, produced by Echelon Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., has been installed at 44th Avenue and Regal on the South Hill. It essentially allows the traffic signal system and the street lighting to talk to each other, allowing traffic count data to determine when lighting can be reduced.
City Street Department engineers estimate such technology could reduce street lighting costs by up to 30 percent. If the test is promising, the City will install the technology in a second location, on Division Street downtown as part of a project this summer to enhance the streetscape on the Division Gateway between Third Avenue and Spokane Falls Boulevard.
The City also is looking into new energy tracking systems that would help guide decisions for projects that will continue to save energy.
About the City of Spokane
The City of Spokane, home to more than 210,000 people, is located in the heart of the Inland Northwest. Our 2,000 employees strive to deliver efficient and effective services that facilitate economic opportunity and enhance the quality of life for all our citizens. For more information, visit www.spokanecity.org or follow us at @SpokaneCity on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.