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Energy Saving and Renewable Energy in Public Buildings

Project Category: Municipal
Communities Highlighted: Fairfield, Stafford
Project Title: Toward sustainable municipal operations
Contact: Ed Boman, Assistant Dir. Public Works, Fairfield 203-256-3010
Contact: Gary Fisher, Stafford Energy Advisory Panel 860-684-6363
Email:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Derrik Kennedy, Assistant Town Manager, Enfield, 860-253-6350 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Municipal buildings can be an ideal place to begin energy upgrades, since those initiatives can save taxpayers money and also get your Task Force or Committee well plugged into the workings of the local government. Because that includes dealing with the politics of energy choices, it is also complex.

Thankfully, Connecticut has a growing wealth of models of communities that are leading by example with clean and efficient energy systems in public buildings – and funding programs to help communities achieve those goals.

Two key funding approaches are performance contracts for energy-efficiency, and LRECs/ ZRECs for renewable energy projects.

An energy-saving performance contract is a collaboration with a business that specializes in the technologies of energy efficiency and has independent financing to cover the costs of work it performs for cities, towns, and villages (not to mention private clients). Major companies like Honeywell and Johnson Controls perform this service, and so do many smaller, specialized firms.

Typically the company performs a building analysis and makes specific recommendations including a full price and payback schedule, and designs the performance contract so that the financing can be repaid in installments that are less than the energy dollars saved. This allows performance contracting to be financially neutral or even cash flow positive for a community. At the same time, it can be an investment of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, so some communities require voter approval which in turn requires a measure of education.

The Town of Fairfield received the 2014 Power of Change Award (a public-private partnership between the state and three foundations) for Overall Excellence for its leadership in municipal building upgrades. For example, the highest efficiency HVAC equipment was installed through a $7 million performance contract with Johnson Controls. Large buildings were equipped with dual fuel capability, lighting upgrades, and a fully automated computerized system for energy maintenance. Town employees were trained to operate the new equipment. Two new energy generation facilities were constructed - one producing 590kW and the other 50kw, through multiple means of alternative energy production.

Adding to the town’s carbon emissions reduction was a purchase of 20% green power through Renewable Energy Credits, and an improvement in recycling to achieve a 50% rate. Through these measures, Fairfield was able to reduce electricity use by 22% and fuel oil consumption by 86% while cutting building maintenance costs 20%. As a result, the town’s total heating bill (paid for by taxpayers) is now less than it was in 1996.

While performance contracting is not new, it has become easier and more standardized thanks to the state’s recently created program which provides legal templates, technical assistance and contractor qualification. In 2015, the Town of Enfield became the first to conduct comprehensive preparation for a performance contract using the state program resources such as Technical Facility Profiles and model contract language. Enfield established careful groundwork by creating a strategic plan, the Enfield Energy Strategy, through partnership with the appointed Clean Energy Committee and a consultant, Peregrine Energy Group. Peregrine’s services, paid for by a Bright Idea Grant from Energize-CT, included a walk-through audit of major buildings and detailed analysis of building systems and costs, allowing the performance contract specifications to be set in a very clear, well documented manner.

According to Assistant Town Manager Derrik Kennedy, who spearheaded the project, the state’s technical assistance built confidence and protected staff bandwidth for the political strategy needed to build support for the project through a referendum. “We gave the Council two options to consider, and their deliberation led us to focus on short-to-medium-term improvements. That allowed us to see ways of making a major difference in our buildings – not just making them less bad, but in many cases breaking through from early 20th century technologies to really modern standards.”

Performance contracts can cover both energy-efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. Where there is a focus on renewables, an additional important financing mechanism is the Renewable Energy Credit (REC). These are trade-able certificates signifying the purchase of renewable energy; they carry a dollar value determined by the marketplace. Low-Emissions (LREC) and Zero-Emissions (ZREC) versions are available for different kinds of energy projects; a fuel cell is an example of a qualifying low-emission project, and a solar array is an example of a qualifying zero-emission project.

Connecticut’s utilities conduct LREC and ZREC solicitations at two scales, small and medium-to-large. Winners of these solicitations receive a stream of guaranteed purchases of the electricity from their projects in the form of LREC or ZREC awards, for a 15-year period, thus reducing the financial uncertainty and defraying project cost with a guaranteed purchase by the utilities. The Medium-Large program is a reverse auction, in which the lowest bids are selected. The Small ZREC program serves applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. In both programs, each round of funding is announced with a very tight time window – typically two weeks. Therefore a community interested in competing has to have its project proposals ready and watch for the announcement. Being ready includes having a designated contractor ready to do the project and a bid in hand for the cost. In 2014, Woodstock was recently awarded their large 1MW ZREC for their capped landfill under a Purchase Power Agreement with BeFree Solar. Efforts to obtain their bid were based on the shared collaboration with Stafford's member Gary Fischer and Woodstock's chair, Jim Stratos.

Stafford has been a leader in setting ambitious renewable energy goals, and attaining them using ZRECs as a mechanism for offsetting project costs.   Stafford’s Energy Advisory Committee, with a strong representation of engineering and finance talent, has gradually demonstrated its ability to produce savings and manage innovative projects, and has won the trust of elected officials and staff as a result. Stafford’s team has taken a methodical yet original approach, first identifying every possible candidate for solar among town buildings and prioritizing them based upon electricity demand and expenses.

The town has created a standard Request for Proposals for contractors which can be adapted for each new project. Stafford’s Gary Fisher advises, “Create your own contracts and review them carefully. Whether you are doing a performance contract or a solar project, watch for embedded costs that could be reduced or eliminated. We have taken the approach of building up our in-house expertise in engineering and technology, and saving our grant resources for high-value legal advice.”




Community Updates


For those concerned about the climate crisis…

Small info cards, about 3”x4”, are available in quantities of 100 and more; if interested, please contact Patrice Gillespie .


… 2018 has been named the Year of Local Action. And the Eastern CT Green Action group is leading the way. ECGA was formed by several people from towns in eastern Connecticut. Initially most people were from Mansfield; as of now, people from Andover, Ashford, Chaplin, Coventry, Eastford, Hampton, Lebanon, Pomfret, Scotland, Tolland, Willington and Windham are members.

With the publication of his excellent weekly newsletter CT Green News, ECGA co-founder Peter Millman is helping us Nutmeggers stay up to date on issues, events and opportunities for concerned citizens to connect with their elected officials. He has published over 50 editions of his newsletter, and would love to broaden his every Friday distribution. Just contact Peter via and benefit from his convenient digest of important news and environmentally-focused online postings.


Calendar Highlights


HIGHLIGHTS OF CT’s FALL GATHERING of clean energy task forces can be found here in our Knowledge Center’s Program Archives pages. Diane Duva (the Director of Energy Demand at DEEP’s Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy is pictured here) facilitating the shaping of our state’s energy future.

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Clean Energy Communities Listening Session Letter of Thanks and Follow-up

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