With the Olympics having begun last weekend, here at Aetna Corp. we thought it’d only be right to hold a medal ceremony of our own: Gold goes to the most populous, most energy efficient city in the United States!
In fall 2013, the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy), a nonprofit research group based in Washington, came out with a report ranking the 34 most populous cities of the US on their efforts to save energy. Who came out on top? Our very own Boston, MA!
So Boston gets the gold and, according to their report, Portland the silver, New York City the bronze. But not every report like the ACEEE’s that tries to define “success in energy savings” does so in the same way. The ACEEE looked in particular at the cities’ local governments, community initiatives, buildings, energy water utilities and public benefits programs, and transportation.
Although Portland succeeded over Boston in transportation and Seattle had us beat in efficient buildings technologies, Boston had the best score of all 34 cities, with a collective 76.5/87 points – 6.5 more than runner-up Portland.
These categories, if appearing simply as titles above bars in ACEEE’s scorecard graph, can seem just as abstract as the thumbs-up the ACEEE gives to Boston in scoring it the most energy-efficient. Nonetheless, behind the term “buildings,” for instance, are real-world efforts and policies in which some of this country’s largest cities are involved.
Specifically, 10 cities including Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles are participants in the City Energy Project, or CEP – an effort launched by the National Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation that acknowledges both the significant carbon footprint of US buildings as well as the often oppressive economic limitations to putting environmentally sustainable policies in place.
Despite their recognition that going green often means an initial increase in costs, however, NRDC’s and IMT’s expectations of the CEP, outlined in a recent article by Clean Technica, are not insignificant. They anticipate that the program will reduce CO2 emissions by 5-7 million tons – the equivalent of taking more than a million cars off the road, or disconnecting the power from more than 700,000 homes, according to Clean Technica.
Boston, among a few others, is going even further than the goals agreed upon by most of the program’s contributors; Boston participates in “energy benchmarking,” the process by which property owners monitor and publicly report the energy performance of their buildings.
The City Energy Project is endorsed by David Pogue, a high-ranking official at CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm, as well as by former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, quoted in a 2013 article from USA Today about Boston’s impressive ACEEE scorecard, said, “Environmental development goes hand in hand with economic development,” and emphasized the importance of officials using language Boston residents can understand, as opposed to lofty, scientific jargon, to relate to them ideas such as this.
Here at Aetna Corp., we agree with Mr. Menino: Making it easier for regular people to understand the significance of smart energy consumption is more than important – it is necessary.
Green goals are not new to Boston’s plate; in 2009, Menino organized an initiative called Renew Boston. Today, the Renew Boston website offers several free tools to help citizens save, including no-cost energy assessments to renters and property owners residing in or owning small Boston buildings, high-efficiency light bulbs, and no-cost air sealing.
Renew Boston Solarize, which focuses on furthering Boston’s utilization of solar technologies to reduce the city’s dependency on other energy resources, says that the City of Boston aims to implement 25 megawatts of solar installations by 2015. Massachusetts, according to a September 2013 release from the MA Clean Energy Center, had, at the time of that reporting, met its 250 megawatt goal four years early – bringing MA Governor Deval Patrick to increase the goal to having 1,600 megawatts of solar installed by 2020.
The release also included a statement by Governor Patrick that clean energy jobs in the state have grown by double-digits for two years in a row (24.4% in 2012, and 11.8% in 2013). Check out Aetna’s Facebook page for a link to an article that references the 2013 release, and asks readers to sign a petition to expand net metering benefits.
Boston’s Aetna Corp.-awarded gold medal, as well as what that accomplishment means, should not completely eclipse the work the city and its neighbors still need to be doing to reduce their dependency on resources like natural gas that are less sustainable than solar. New England’s dependence on natural gas has increased 22 percent since 2001, according to an article from Bloomberg News. With all the snow and cold we’ve been having and not enough pipeline capacity to meet consequent demand, this winter has been the most expensive for Boston power since 2005.
Make sure you visit our blog, Twitter, and Facebook page often for information about cold weather, its consequences for energy consumption, and how to keep costs down. We are proud of our city for how far it’s come with solar, and look forward to seeing Boston make new efforts to shine through some really chilly challenges.