DOE program aids in community clean energy planning

By Anna Austin | May 12, 2011

State, local and tribal officials looking to implement clean energy projects and programs may be interested in the U.S. DOE Technical Assistance Program.

TAP, which provides the tools and resources necessary to implement community energy strategic planning at city and county levels, held a webinar May 12 to educate officials on the benefits of the program and how to take advantage of it.

“As you go through the process, we have an A-to-Z approach from technology identification to project implantation,” said the DOE’s Rebecca McEwen.

Brian Levitt, principle at Prism Consulting Inc., explained the importance of a community strategic energy plan (CSEP), which he defined as a framework for thinking about energy at the local level. “It’s an opportunity to stop and think about what you’re going to do,” he said.  

The main drivers for implementing a CSEP are saving money and lowering carbon footprints while providing clear guidance and a set of principles, according to Levitt. Basically, it is a business plan for reducing energy consumption in a community that illustrates opportunities to local leaders. “A CSEP provides a clear vision and a path to achieve it, estimates cost and cost savings, and it’s your tool to get the support you need in the community to really move forward,” he said. “You have to prioritize your efforts and make sure you direct your money and resources to the area where it will have the most impact.”  

Whether the project is energy efficient lighting or a wastewater treatment plant retrofit, it’s important for stakeholders to have a road map to ensure that everyone involved understands what’s going on, including new players interested in participating in the project, Levitt said. “It helps you manage progress toward energy goals,” he said. Part of the process in developing a CSEP is benchmarking the energy situation and tracking accomplishments over time to determine the effectiveness of each tactic you are using, he added.  

Developing a CSEP involves nine core steps which are: identify and convince stakeholders, form a leadership team, develop an energy vision, determine an energy baseline, develop specific goals, identify/evaluate/rank programs and policies, identify funding sources, compile the plan and measure/alter plan.

For projects that get hung up on the funding step, TAP can also help, Levitt said. “There are options beyond direct funding from community or state government or within a corporation,” he said.

Although not all of the steps apply to every community, organization, project or program, they should all be considered.

 Any government that wants to save money and provide energy leadership, or any community that doesn’t have a clear plan to execute energy performance should develop a CSEP, Levitt added.

To learn more about TAP, visit