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Clean Energy Plan Seeks to Reduce Town's Carbon Footprint

Recently adopted by the town council, the Comprehensive Energy Plan offers suggestions for reducing energy usage and improving the quality of energy consumed.

The recently adopted Comprehensive Energy Management Plan for the town features many action items and objectives designed to reduce the energy usage of town and education buildings and vehicles as well as reduce the overall carbon footprint of the municipal government. A product of several years work by the Avon Clean Energy Commission (ACEC), the implementation of the plan is the reponsibility of the town council and departments.

Formed in 2008, the ACEC serves as an advisory board to the town council. The overall plan consists of four action plans in line with the following goals: promoting town wide energy education, reducing building energy use by 15%, reducing non-building energy use including the vehicle fleet and outdoor lighting, and reducing the town's carbon footprint by 20%.

Using funds made available by the State of Connecticut ARRA Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, the town made use of the services of Peregrine Energy Group, a consulting firm from Boston to conduct an energy use assessment to establish a baseline rate of consumption. The year 2008 was chosen for the baseline year, and short and long term goals will be measured against the baseline.

Assistant Town Manager Steve Bartha said several improvements were already in the works to achieve energy efficiency in town buildings. He cited the library renovation and the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system as well as the middle school roof renovation including infrastructure for solar panelling.

"The fascination with green energy gets a lot of buzz," Bartha said, "but many efficiencies are achieved through infrastructure and improvements." Bartha noted improvements to insulation and window replacement as areas for energy efficiency.

The total energy budget for the town in 2011 was just shy of $2 million, with $1,950,000 for energy costs. The vast majority of these costs were in powering education and town buildings, accounting for 86% of the total energy bill. The remaining 14% comprises street lighting and vehicle fuel costs.

The goal of 15% reduction in energy usage is measured on a per square foot basis, allowing for increases in building area use.

In addition to reducing total energy consumption, the plan calls for additional moves to renewable energy sources to reduce the town's carbon footprint. By installing non-carbon producing renewable energy sources, and participating in programs where the electricity usage of the town is generated by cleaner energy, the 20% reduction by 2020 should be easily attainable according to the report.

ACEC Chairman Bernard Zahren said, "there is plenty of opportunity, we want to see the will and commitment from the Town Council and Board of Education."

He noted the challenge faced by municipalities in securing funding for energy initiatives.

"State incentives are often put on a short fuse," he said, "two million dollars may be available, but only on a 60 day window."

The pace of local government application and approval processes can make this timeline too short to capitalize on the incentives. Zahren also said private capital is available for many of the intitiatives listed in the plan.

The plan also calls for outreach to the community, offering information about alternative energy and energy efficiency strategies to Town residences and businesses.

The report noted several efficiency measures already adopted by the Department of Public Works, mostly related to maintenance issues for vehicles and no-idle polices. The fleet is currently comprised of gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles. Possible energy reduction could be achieved through the use of hybrid vehicles.

The plan includes many practical suggestions for reducing energy consumption including thermostat management, changing inefficient light bulbs, replacing insulation and other measures. The consultant's figures estimated a payback of 20 years for Board of Education buildings for all suggested improvements, and roughly 10 years to recoup on investment in other Town buildings, with current known incentive programs.

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