Sustainable Development

Oregon Economic Development Bill Seeks to Revitalize Main Streets

The Oregon Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue is holding a public hearing on an economic development bill that would create a tax credit for certified historic commercial property rehabilitation projects.

Video – Restore Oregon

The Revitalize Main Street Act (SB 565) would establish a 25 percent rebate for certified rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings including hotels, theaters, factories, mills and other income-producing properties.

The bill is being pushed by historic preservation group Restore Oregon, which claims that passage of this bill would provide a boost to Oregon economic development.

They cite an economic impact study by economic consulting firm EcoNorthwest, which looks at the benefits of a state historic rehabilitation incentive for Oregon. According to this study, a $10.6 million state investment by 2018 would result in four times more buildings being rehabbed and would attract $13.3 million in addition federal Historic Tax Credit dollars per year.

It would create 1,369 jobs per year generating an income of $25.5 million, and a $2.3 million net increase in property taxes per year.

The 25 percent rebate would be especially beneficial in revitalizing main streets in rural Oregon communities, where it could be paired with the federal Historic Tax Credit to close the funding gap that prevents historic buildings from being restored. Out of the 2,600 or so buildings that could use the credit if it becomes available, some two-thirds are outside Portland.

Even in urban areas where there are developers willing to knock down historic properties and redevelop them, it is far more environmentally sustainable to rehabilitate and reuse old buildings. It would take over 80 years even for the most energy efficient building to make up for the energy used up for demolishing the old structure and constructing the new one.

If approved, Oregon would join 35 other states that already have a state historic rehabilitation tax credit that complements the federal tax credit available for these projects.

SB 565 would target the state investment towards the most important historic properties in Oregon that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eligible projects would require to make a minimum rehabilitation investment of $10,000.

The bill creates a State Historic Rehabilitation Fund, and directs the Department of Revenue, in cooperation with State Historic Preservation Officer, to conduct auction of tax credits. The auction proceeds would be deposited in the fund and used for the purpose of offering rebates to property owners for eligible rehabilitation expenses for historic properties.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Energy Office to Provide Home MPG Ratings

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Energy Office and the Energy Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs are collaborating on a federally funded project to develop a home energy score label.

Home energy score

DOE Home energy score tool (photo – energy.gov)

The project will enable people in both states to figure out a home’s projected energy cost and performance information in a uniform manner, similar to a miles-per-gallon (MPG) rating for automobiles.

Both states will develop their home energy scoring labels using already developed and accepted national standards and systems, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score tool.

The ‘Home Performance Recognition’ program is funded to the tune of $225,000 each for Arkansas and Alabama. This funding is part of the $5 million in federal funds that was awarded last year to 13 states under the U.S. DOE Competitive State Energy Program (SEP) Special Projects.

The goal of the program is to support the advancement of energy efficiency and renewable energy practices in the residential sector by helping consumers, the construction industry and real estate professionals better understand and value the merits of energy efficiency investments.

Apart from the AEDC Energy Office and the ADECA Energy Division, other partners involved in this project include Nexus Energy, Earth Advantage, the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center, North Little Rock Electric, City of Fayetteville, and Energy Efficiency Arkansas.

Arkansas Energy Office Interim Director Mitchell Simpson said in a release that through this DOE funding award, the Arkansas Energy Office and the Alabama Energy Division, along with their respective project partners, will work collaboratively to help households, contractors, real estate professionals and other energy industry stakeholders understand the important economic impacts of energy efficiency in their everyday lives.

Elizabeth Grimes, a program manager with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, likewise said that they see a real benefit to this kind of information being made available on a voluntary basis to consumers, builders and real estate professionals.

Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) President Mandy Mahoney said in the release that they are very pleased to see a project of this importance proceeding in Arkansas and Alabama. Mahoney added that empowering consumers with the knowledge to make smart choices in how they spend their money makes good business sense.

A report previously published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has forecasted that energy efficiency investments in Arkansas could create more than 11,000 jobs and generate $238 million in revenue for the state by 2025.

Illinois Clean Jobs Bill Hopes to Create Thousands of Green Jobs

Legislation introduced in the Illinois General Assembly could end up creating tens of thousands of green jobs in the state’s clean energy economy.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (SB1485 and HB2607) seeks to establish new energy efficiency and renewable energy standards by amending the Illinois Power Agency Act.

Video – IL Clean Jobs

The bill would:-

– Increase energy efficiency standards to 20 percent by 2025;

– Increase the percentage of energy generated from renewable sources like wind and solar to 35 percent by 2030; and

– Create a market-based strategy to reduce the carbon pollution from power plants, as required to meet new Clean Power Plan standards recently announced by the U.S. EPA.

Hiking energy efficiency standards to 20 percent will double the savings as compared to what would otherwise be achieved under current standards in the state. The revenues generated from the carbon marketplace auctions would be invested in areas like workforce development and new renewable energy projects.

These measures, together with the 10 percent hike in the amount of renewable energy from 25 to 35 percent, are expected to provide a huge spurt in growth for the Illinois clean energy economy.

Illinois currently has around 100,000 clean energy jobs. If the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill becomes law and the higher standards it calls for are fully implemented, it is expected that the industry could support the creation of 32,000 jobs per year.

The average of 32,000 jobs created per year is an impact estimate provided by the Illinois Science and Technology Institute, based on data provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the NRDC, among others.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill was introduced in the Illinois Senate by Sen. Don Harmon from Oak Park. Rep. Elaine Nekritz introduced the companion bill in the House.

“This bill benefits people in every part of Illinois, in our biggest cities, in suburbs, in farming communities – anywhere where people would gain from new jobs, better health and a cleaner environment,” said Sen. Harmon in a release issued by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.

Rep. Nekritz noted that in the race to build a long-term, sustainable and profitable clean jobs economy, too many states are beginning to outpace Illinois, and urged fellow lawmakers to act now and join them in passing the bill.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, comprised of more than 40 businesses and 28 environmental and business organizations, likewise issued a statement in which they say that the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill sets a long-term clean energy policy that creates jobs, rather than sunsetting soon, missing opportunities to create jobs and raising the risk that consumers will again be asked to pay more in just a few short years.

New Bedford Business Park Brings More Green Economy Jobs to Massachusetts

City officials in New Bedford, MA announced that green economy company HTP, Inc. is consolidating and expanding its operations into a facility in the New Bedford Business Park.

New Bedford, MA

New Bedford, MA (photo – C. Pesch/epa.gov)

The Freetown, MA-based company already has 155 employees, and plans to create another 40 new jobs as part of the expansion.

HTP develops, manufactures and distributes renewable and energy-efficient space and water heating products, and also manufactures solar thermal panels and associated products.

Apart from its headquarters, a customer training center and various other divisions, the company is also relocating and consolidating an out-of-state solar thermal manufacturing plant to the former AFC Cable Systems site in the New Bedford Business Park.

HTP President Dave Martin said in a release issued by the City that they are excited about HTP’s next chapter and the opportunity to grow the company in the New Bedford Business Park. Martin added that they hope that HTP’s energy and money saving approaches serve as a positive influence to the community and their efforts to go green.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said this announcement shows the tremendous potential of New Bedford to play a leading role in the so-called Green Economy that is fast emerging in Massachusetts.

Mayor Mitchell noted that they are already home to a leading solar panel installer and remain well positioned to lead the nation in offshore wind energy, and added that HTP is exactly the kind of company that they see creating good jobs for residents in years ahead.

The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, supported by a $100 million investment from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the first port terminal in America expressly designed and built to support the assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects. Built by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the terminal gives the Port of New Bedford a unique advantage in terms of the specialized infrastructure that offshore wind farms need.

New Bedford Business Park likewise offers an ideal location just 40 miles from Boston and even closer to Providence. The region has more than 325,000 workers with strong labor skills in high-end manufacturing, assembly and distribution within a 30-minute commute. Housing costs in New Bedford are 50 percent lower than in Greater Boston. Blue-collar wages are 10-25 percent lower and white collar salaries are 25-40 percent lower.

New Bedford Economic Development Council Executive Director Derek Santos said in the release that HTP is a family-owned business with a national reputation and a proven track record of being good corporate citizens, and this is a big win for the Business Park and the City.

 

Microsoft Invests Another $200M Into Cheyenne, Wyoming Data Center Project

Microsoft will invest another $200 million into its data center operations in Cheyenne, WY.

Microsoft

Microsoft (photo – psd/flickr)

The announcement was made by Governor Matt Mead in partnership with economic development organizations Cheyenne LEADS and the Wyoming Business Council.

This latest investment takes Microsoft’s total investment into its Cheyenne data center operations to around $750 million.

The expansion will add a whole new data center to the project and will lead to the creation of 25 new permanent jobs in addition to the 25 jobs that already exist. The project will also support the creation of up to 600 construction jobs at peak.

In a release announcing the project, Gov. Mead said that these jobs represent Wyoming’s commitment to diversifying the state’s economy. The Governor noted that it would have been hard to believe if he had been told four years ago that a company would be investing three quarters of a billion dollars in Wyoming and it had nothing to do with minerals, tourism and agriculture.

“I would like to thank Microsoft for their continued investment in Wyoming,” added Gov. Mead.

Microsoft started work on the pilot zero-carbon data center project, called a Data Plant, in early 2012. Their plan was to use on-site fuel cells to power the data center. Bio-gas from the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne would in turn serve as a renewable source of energy for the fuel cells.

The Data Plant has a capacity to produce 250 kilowatts of renewable power, but only needs about 100 kW. The excess power is delivered back to the wastewater treatment plant to help break down biodegradable waste into energy using anaerobic digestion – an environment-friendly process used to convert waste into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels.

Christian Belady, general manager of Data Center Services for Microsoft, said in the release that they are excited to expand their footprint in Cheyenne and continue the strong working relationship with the community.

Apart from the Wyoming Business Council and Cheyenne LEADS, Microsoft was supported in this pilot effort to create a zero-carbon data center by the City of Cheyenne, University of Wyoming, the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, the Western Research Institute, Connecticut-based Fuel Cell Energy, and other state and local partners.

The Microsoft Data Plant officially opened in November last year. Cheyenne LEADS CEO Randy Bruns said in the release that Microsoft continues to be a great company to work with, and added that they are thrilled to have the company believe in this community and to significantly expand their operations and investment in Cheyenne once again.

For its part, the Cheyenne economic development non-profit is also once again assisting Microsoft with this latest expansion by enlarging the business park and extending utilities to the 120-acre site where Microsoft plans to build the new data center.

NY Five Cities Energy Plans Competition to Help Save $400M in Annual Energy Costs

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $20 million in funding for an innovative new energy competition that will enable some of New York State’s largest municipalities to save a combined total of up to $400 million in annual energy costs.

NY Five Cities Energy Plans Competition

NY Five Cities Energy Plans Competition (photo -nypa.gov)

The Five Cities Energy Plans Competition allows Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers to compete for $20 million in funding for implementing their plans.

The competition will be held as part of a $35 million, five-year program wherein a state-funded energy manager position will first be created in each city. These energy managers will then help their respective cities develop plans for energy projects and be accountable for the newly completed plans.

The program also creates an energy liaison position to serve as a link between the five cities and the New York Power Authority and other state agencies, allowing the cities access to technical expertise and streamlined support for their energy plans.

The NYPA will also lead efforts to finance grants and facilitate implementation and start-up costs and the race-to-the-top competition for carrying out large energy projects, accelerating clean energy markets and showcasing new technologies.

The competition will provide up to $20 million in funding for further implementation of the most forward-thinking and advanced plans.

The Five Cities Energy Plans Competition, which builds on the BuildSmart NY program requiring a 20-percent energy efficiency increase in state-owned and managed buildings by 2020, was first proposed by the Governor last year and outlined in this year’s State of the State message.

In a release announcing the funding for this initiative, Gov. Cuomo said that this competition will allow regions to develop their best possible plan to bring their energy infrastructure into the 21st century.

The Governor added that it will not only save costs and reduce harmful carbon emissions, but create jobs and help New York’s cities move toward a more sustainable future.

NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said in the release that by sharing their expertise with New York’s large municipalities, they look to dramatically change how the state’s urban centers use energy, while simultaneously gaining significant economic and environmental benefits.

For example, Syracuse’s energy plan includes, among other things, requiring LEED certification for new construction, integration of energy efficiency criteria into capital and fleet decision making, improved building codes and enforcement, and enhanced monitoring of energy usage.

You can see the NY Five Cities Energy Plans for Syracuse and the other cities here.

Texas State Grants Add to RESTORE Act Funding For University Consortiums

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced $4 million in state funding to support the creation of consortiums between Texas universities to study offshore energy development, including research and technology advancements that improve the sustainable and safe development of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

This $4 million in state grants is being provided from funds given to Texas by BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and adds to the federal RESTORE Act funding already announced to create the two centers of excellence for housing the two consortiums.

RESTORE Act funding graph

RESTORE Act funding graph (photo – treasury.gov)

Gov. Perry said in a release announcing the funding that it will support research at Texas universities “that will look at both the lessons of the past and challenges of the future to make energy exploration in our nation more effective.”

One of the requirements of the RESTORE Act is that the five Gulf States affected by the oil spill should establish these centers of excellence to conduct research on the Gulf Coast region.

Some $4.1 million in federal funding will be made available for these centers of excellence from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Treasury and funded by the administrative and civil penalties paid by those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

As required for federal funding opportunities, the two Texas consortiums were selected through a competitive process based on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s regulations for awarding grants.

TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker represents the State of Texas on the RESTORE Council, and is charged with managing the implementation of the RESTORE Act in Texas.

Commissioner Baker said in a TCEQ release that he is pleased that the first resources allocated from the RESTORE Trust Fund will enrich the Texas economy through research and development, while also highlighting the state’s commitment to the health of the coastlines.

One of the centers of excellence will be led by the University of Houston, and its members include the NASA Johnson Space Center, Rice University, Houston Community College, Lone Star Community College and Texas Southern University.

The second one will be led by Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, and its members include Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas A& M University – Galveston, the University of Texas Medical Branch–Galveston, the University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas State University, and the University of Houston Law Center.

The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association is a member of this second consortium as well, and so are the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, and the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research.

This consortium will look at sustainable offshore energy development through advances in research and technology, and study restoration and protection of the coast and deltas. They’ll also be doing research and monitoring of the Gulf Coast’s coastal fisheries and wildlife ecosystems, and monitoring and mapping the gulf.

The scope of their activities also covers Texas economic development and sustainable and resilient growth in the region. The role of these centers could expand further as more financial resources are devoted to the RESTORE Trust Fund.

Boston Supports Socially Responsible Coffee Company’s Cart With Space in City Hall

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that Boston Brewin Coffee Company will be selling coffee, tea and small treats inside City Hall for a four-month trial period.

Boston Brewin Coffee Co

Boston Brewin Coffee Co (photo – realbostonian.com)

The coffee cart’s location on the third floor mezzanine of City Hall is part of an effort by the Walsh Administration to come up with ways to make public spaces in Boston more inviting, engaging, and personable.

This is a collaborative project between the Boston Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the Office of Small and Local Business Enterprise, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, Inspectional Services Department, and Property and Construction Management.

In a statement announcing the project, Mayor Walsh said that City Hall is the front door to local government, and he wants everyone who visits to have a great experience.

“This is a small step we can take, which has a big impact, to activate the people’s public space and enhance constituent interactions with the City,” said Mayor Walsh.

Tom Barns, Founder of Boston Brewin Coffee Company, said that by sharing their business model, they provide the opportunity for people to be real Bostonians and support their own community through coffee.

Boston Brewin Coffee Company relies on a sustainable, local and socially responsible business model. Their 100 percent organic, shade-grown and fair trade coffee is sourced from Orange, MA-based Dean’s Beans – reputed as a socially just and environmentally responsible coffee company.

The coffee cart in City Hall will also sell locally sourced pastries from the Haley House, Lyndell’s Bakery, and C and C Bakers of East Boston. The cart itself is made of recycled material from discarded school desks.

Boston Brewin Coffee Company is a triple bottom line company focused on people, product and the planet, and operates on a “Pay it 4Ward” operating model. They pay all their employees a living wage, and give 100 percent of the profits from each of their locations to a specific non-profit organization picked through an open voting process.

Their original location on Bromfield Street opened in Oct 2011, and the second location opened in Maverick in Sept 2014. All the profits from this second location are dedicated to the McKay School in East Boston. It also provides access to 17 small businesses that make up the Maverick Street Market Place.

The coffee cart in City Hall is their third location. Their fourth Boston outlet is now being launched on Winter Street in Downtown Crossing. A voting process held to decide which non-profit should get the earnings from this fourth location drew 733 votes, with Raising a Reader getting the most votes.

Raising a Reader is an evidence-based early literacy organization that helps families with young children develop and maintain the habit of reading at home.

Ten New Energy Efficiency Standards to Save $78B in Electricity Bills

The U.S. Department of Energy has released two new energy efficiency standards for general service fluorescent lamps (GSFLs) and automatic commercial ice makers.

DOE standard for GSFLs

DOE energy efficiency standard for GSFLs (photo – energy.gov)

This makes it ten new energy efficiency standards finalized in the last year. Together, these ten standards will result in reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 435 million metric tons and electricity bill savings of $78 billion through 2030.

GSFLs are typically used in industrial factories, commercial establishments like restaurants, and for indoor lighting in homes. The new standard for these lamps will result in electricity bill savings of more than $15 billion through 2030.

It will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 90 million metric tons – equivalent to the annual electricity use of more than 12 million homes.

Commercial ice makers are used to produce large amounts of ice used in soft drinks, beverages and ice water, as well as for keeping fish and other products fresh and frozen. The new standard for these ice makers will save nearly $600 million in electricity bills through 2030, and will reduce carbon dioxide pollution by four million metric tons.

The other eight energy efficiency standards finalized last year include electric motors, furnace fans, walk-in coolers, freezers, commercial refrigeration equipment, metal halide lamp fixtures, external power supplies, and residential through-the-wall air conditioners and heat pumps.

The DOE Building Technologies Office (BTO) implements minimum energy conservation standards for more than 50 categories of appliances and equipment. As a result of these standards, energy users saved about $55 billion on their utility bills in 2013. The cumulative cost savings from all standards in effect since 1987 will reach over $1.7 trillion by 2030.

In a statement announcing the addition of the two new standards, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that “The Energy Department is committed to building on this progress, and will continue to develop standards that move the U.S. closer to a low carbon future.”

These energy efficiency standards are being added as part of the Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013.

The plan includes a goal of reducing carbon pollution by at least three billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through energy efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings. If achieved, this three billion metric ton reduction would balance more than half of the annual carbon pollution by the U.S. energy sector.

Massachusetts Awards $18.4M Grants Under Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has awarded $18.4 million in grants to local communities implementing clean energy technologies and improving resiliency at critical facilities.

Resilience

Resilience (photo – poptech/flickr)

The grants are being provided through the Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative administered by DOER. This is the second round of funding under this initiative, following an earlier $7.4 million round of grants.

A total of $40 million in state funding has been made available under the Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative to assist towns and cities that have identified facilities where loss of electrical service would result in disruption of critical life-saving or public safety functions.

Municipalities receiving funding under this initiative can use the funding to implement clean energy technologies that will keep their energy systems operational.  The project may include clean energy generation systems, or energy storage, energy management systems, islanding technologies and microgrids.

The latest round of $18.4 million in grants includes funding for 13 proposed projects. The largest grants have been awarded to projects submitted by the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District and the City of Boston.

GLSD, a regional wastewater district, is pursuing a three-phase construction project to accept source separated organics and produce electricity and heat for its main plant and electricity for its pump station. The $4.389 million grant is for the resiliency components of the project’s second and third phase.

The City of Boston is getting a grant of $3.68 million for a joint project with the Boston Medical Center to install a 2MW co-generation system. This system will be configured not only to support the hospital, but also provide backup power for regional emergency communications infrastructure on a high-rise tower across from the plant.

DOER Commissioner Meg Lusardi said in a release announcing the grant awards that these grants are another example of their partnership with cities and towns, and will support local communities during climate-change induced events by making critical facilities able to continue service using clean energy technology solutions.

The Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative is part of a coordinated plan for climate preparedness announced by Governor Deval Patrick a year ago to increase resiliency across the Commonwealth.

The focus on clean energy is proving to be a valuable Massachusetts economic development strategy as well. The sector clocked up 10.5 percent job growth in Massachusetts last year, and has grown by 47 percent since 2010. There are now nearly 6,000 clean tech businesses in Massachusetts that employ close to 88,000 people.

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