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Berkley approves energy plan meant to save costs, improve efficiency

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 27, 2019

BERKLEY — The Berkley City Council recently passed its energy plan in hopes of reducing costs and saving energy.

Approved at the council’s Aug. 12 meeting, the energy plan was created in conjunction with the city, its Environmental Advisory Committee and EcoWorks, which is a nonprofit organization that has a focus on sustainable communities.

The plan, according to City Manager Matt Baumgarten, is a vision of how Berkley can improve the ways it utilizes its energy, as well as “make some changes to the way that we administer our entire approach to energy management.”

The energy plan, which can be found on the city’s website, is divided into six sections with recommended goals and actions for each in terms of energy management and sustainability. Those six areas are project selection and implementation, funding, staffing, policies and procedures, data, and communications.

Henrik Mader, an energy analyst with EcoWorks, said the plan was formatted in a way to frame clean energy as not only something that will save the city money, but something that will help community development, build economic opportunities and improve communications.

On funding, Mader said, “From our experience, that’s typically the biggest hurdle, so anything we can do to navigate that has been useful in the past.”

When it comes to implementation strategies and actions, the plan goes into detail on many ways that Berkley can go, such as improving municipal building performance and implementing clean energy projects. This includes converting all interior lighting in municipal facilities to LED by 2020; reviewing the existing capital improvement plan to identify any equipment that is otherwise due for replacement, and utilizing the most efficient equipment available; and incorporating renewable energy into the energy portfolio of each building.

“That’s a smart goal,” Mader said of converting municipal building lights to LED. “It’s going to save a lot of money. Easily tracked; it’s something we’re very confident in. This action plan, we developed it to supplement master plans and capital improvement plans. So that’s the intent of this — to help along clean energy goals with these broader efforts.”

Mark Richardson, chairperson of the Environmental Advisory Committee, called the plan a framework and said that the most important recommendations in it are of a procedural or administrative nature.

“We really think centralizing energy management in one city official is important, and we also think that getting a plan together to provide a fund for energy projects is important, and to me, these are the keys to the plan,” he said. “There’s lots of low-hanging fruit in this, a lot of substantive recommendations, but really we won’t put meat on the bones until we’ve rearranged ourselves a little bit to put somebody in charge of this, and our committee stands ready to help that effort.”

The plan was approved by the council 6-0. Councilman Jack Blanchard said the plan is great and, as one looks through it, one of the reasons Berkley can’t control its energy is because it doesn’t know where it’s using it.

“With one meter feeding four buildings, you don’t have any idea if there’s a problem in one of those buildings,” he said.

The report states that the public safety and public works complexes are metered as groups. The plan recommends separate meters for more accurate energy monitoring.

“The key thing here is to get the meters in place on the other buildings to get the data so we can monitor that data and see if we have a problem,” Blanchard continued. “Right now, we could easily overlook a problem with the way things are set up.”