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Richmond to Save Energy
September 30, 2002

The following article appeared on the Rebuild America newsletter  (http://www.rebuild.org/news/newsdetail.asp?NewsID=1310):

Rebuild America is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that focuses on energy-savings solutions as community solutions. Rebuild America began in 1994 with the mission to accelerate energy-efficiency improvements in existing commercial, institutional and multifamily residential buildings through private-public partnerships created at the community level. Today Rebuild America is helping communities across the country sort though an often overwhelming array of options for building improvements and develop and implement an Action Plan that meet their needs.

Working on a local level, Rebuild America helps community organizations access innovative technologies, industry services, customized assistance, and a variety of business and technical tools needed to perform energy retrofit on buildings. The program focuses on five building sectors: K-12 Schools, Colleges and Universities, State and Local governments, Public and Multi-family Housing, and Commercial Buildings


In California, the latest big step in energy efficiency has been taken by the City of Richmond, which has awarded a wide-ranging performance contract to upgrade energy systems around the city while saving an estimated $8.68 million over the project’s life.

The contract will cover upgrading of more than 100 intersections with traffic signals using light-emitting diodes (LEDs). At the Civic Center, an old boiler plant for heating will be replaced with high-efficiency boilers and a gas-fired microturbine. An energy management system also will be installed in the Civic Center. The main library will get a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels capable of peak output at 94 kilowatts.

The City Council approved the plan and city officials signed the contract in early September. The contractor is CMS Viron Energy Services, a subsidiary of energy giant CMS Energy Corp. Under a timeline the contractor put together several months ago, the upgrades of Phase 1 would be completed during 2003.

CMS Viron projected savings over 21 years would amount to $8.68 million, starting with the completion of most of the Phase 1 upgrades. The cost was estimated at $4.69 million, to be spread over 10 years.

During the first 10 years, CMS Viron will have an operating lease under which it will be paid back entirely through energy and utility savings. Although cash flow will be positive from the start, payments to CMS Viron will absorb most savings during that period. But after that, the city will keep savings of more than $660,000 a year, by CMS Viron’s estimate.

Richmond currently spends more than $2 million a year on electric and natural gas utilities. Under the projections for the performance contract, the city’s savings on its electric bills should rise to $575,000 a year, while its savings on gas bills should reach $23,000 annually.

Those savings, like the project details listed above, are considered Phase 1 of the energy-efficiency upgrades envisioned by the city. For Phase 2, the steps under consideration – not fixed in proposals yet – include such things as other solar power installations, other heating and air conditioning improvements at city facilities and an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant. CMS Viron may propose Phase 2 plans to the City Council early next year.