On July 20, the CBJ Assembly will be considering a bond package for this fall’s ballot. It will include construction projects to help create and maintain jobs while meeting some long standing community needs.
A bond package will be even more valuable if it also helps CBJ save money over the long term by investing in energy efficiency measures for CBJ facilities.
CBJ spends more than $8 million annually on energy to heat, cool and ventilate buildings, distribute water, move sewage, transport people and more. Average buildings waste one-third of the energy they use. Investing in energy efficiency can reduce CBJ costs.
Fortunately, CBJ has some good experience in this area. A decade ago, the school district was able to reduce energy costs by 28%, saving $2 million over 4 years. There are lots of other energy-efficiency opportunities identified in CBJ planning documents and audits that can be acted on now.
Many public buildings have high energy costs because their ventilation and heating systems have not been properly commissioned and balanced. Ventilation and heating problems and high costs are common in Juneau’s public buildings, and their costs are likely to climb as ventilation is increased to address concerns about airborne transmission of COVID-19.
Another benefit of energy efficiency projects is that they are likely to provide the most local business and job opportunities for the public dollars spent. Energy efficiency is local and job-intensive, with small businesses being key players in diverse areas, including administration, construction, manufacturing, design and installation. Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to create new jobs — around 60% of expenditure on energy efficiency retrofits goes towards labor — a higher percentage than many other capital expenditures..
Investing in energy efficiency now would put CBJ in a better position to obtain additional federal infrastructure and stimulus funding to support our community’s wider goals. CBJ has already successfully leveraged small amounts of funding to obtain millions in federal grants for things such as ground-source heat pumps and electric buses, that will reduce operational costs. Additional federal programs for energy efficiency are on the horizon in existing and proposed federal legislation. This bond package would demonstrate community capacity and provide matching funds to take advantage of these opportunities.
Job creation, money savings, reduced waste and emissions, and a foundation for future federal funding are too good to pass up. CBJ should add a substantial energy efficiency component to this fall’s bond package.
• Steve Behnke is a founding board member of the nonprofit group Renewable Juneau, and a member of the CBJ’s Commission on Sustainability. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.