Retrofitting....everything

In a speech last Friday, Portland Mayor Sam Adams announced the beginning of wholesale efficiency retrofitting for residential neighbourhoods across the city. Beginning with a 500 home pilot, Portland's Clean Energy Fund is slated to begin rolling out energy efficiency renovations throughout the entire city by the years end. Homeowners pay nothing, and the work is repaid through the resulting savings on their energy bills. Similar financial setups exist elsewhere. The Toronto Atmospheric Fund has been offering low-interest loans paid back through energy-cost savings for years now.

What sets the Portland plan apart is the sheer scope of what is being attempted. Instead of being run like a granting agency -- where the onus is on you to apply for funding to retrofit your building -- the plan seems to be to provide building efficiency the same way you would supply any other type of utility: Everyone is included. The onus is on you to opt out.

Details on the plan are thin on the ground at the moment. But from the little there is, it seems to follow the lines of a plan I commented on in an earlier post. The mayor's emphasis on job creation highlights another benefit of this type of city wide roll-out. On top of the environmental benefits of rapidly upgrading the existing housing stock, and the economic efficiency inherent in operating at this city-wide scale, the plan will produce thousands of jobs in the local economy.

In cities today, energy efficiency is the exception rather than the rule. A utility-scale approach to municipal energy efficiency could be a key part in correcting that balance.
I'll post more on this as details come in.

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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.


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