Innovative Environmental Sustainability Projects Coming to Charlotte

At the June 10 Environment Committee meeting of Charlotte City Council, Rob Phocas from Neighborhood & Business Services explained a variety of innovative environmental programs that the City is planning for both its own operations and the entire community. The committee's approved Environment Focus Area Plan includes "very aggressive and aspirational goals", according to Mr. Phocas. He showed the diagram below to illustrate how the five environmental initiatives (water, waste, air, energy, and Smart City) will each be supported by goals, metrics, a baseline, mid-term goals, and long-term goals. 

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The Environment Focus Area Plan sets goals for both City operations and the entire community. 

The Energy Secure Cities Coalition (ESCC) is a project to move city fleets toward electric and hybrid technology in order to reduce fuel dependence and protect the environment. The ESCC is looking for 10 pilot cities to transition their municipal fleet. Council Member David Howard asked if this effort would include all city vehicles. Mr. Phocas replied that this program would cover light duty vehicles, and there are other programs in place to reduce emissions from heavy equipment and CATS vehicles. 

What Works City is a $42 million initiative funded by Bloomburg Philanthropies to work with 100 mid-sized cities to accelerate use of data to inform citizens, make government more effective, and improve people's lives. Charlotte has filled out a survey saying we're interested in participating! 

The City is working to reduce its environmental impact through the Efficient Energy in City Buildings program. In the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center, temperatures would be adjusted to be no lower than 75 degrees in summer (85 when unoccupied) and no higher than 70 degrees in winter (55 when unoccupied). The City is also planning to address "plug load", or the amount of energy used by plugged-in equipment, by restricting the use of personal appliances by staff. A single personal refrigerator in an office can cost the City $30 to $100 annually to operate. Coffee makers range from $35 to $55. 

New updates to Charlotte's Sustainable Facilities Policy, which would have to be approved by City Council, include requirements for all new City facilities and major renovations over 5,000 sq ft to achieve LEED v.4 and Energy Star certification. Existing buildings would be expected to meet similar LEED and Energy Star standards through renovations and retrofits. 

The City is exploring a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) project with Envision Charlotte, Simon Properties, and Family Dollar as partners. This voluntary program would allow businesses to draw from a bond-supported fund to pay for energy projects, then pay the loan back through a property tax bill over a longer period of time than a typical construction loan. If Charlotte launches this project, we'll be the first North Carolina city to do so! Mr. Phocas said, "Ideally this is a model we could start in Charlotte, then throughout Mecklenburg County, and eventually it could be replicated in other cities across the country." The PACE project would require approval by Charlotte City Council. 

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The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program would provide a financing mechanism for energy improvements. 

Throughout his presentation, Mr. Phocas gave examples of how Charlotte is using data and technology to develop as a Smart City that uses its resources wisely. We're really excited about the City of Charlotte Environmental Dashboard that will provide updated data and graphs illustrating how the City is performing in commuting, energy management, fleet, green procurement, natural assets, sustainable facilities, waste reduction, and water management! We'll let you know when the Dashboard goes live.

We're proud of the City for pursuing these projects that will improve the lives of all of our residents both now and in the future! Achieving the goals that the Environment Committee included in their FY2016 Focus Area Plan will not be easy. It will take bold leadership and consistent prioritization of innovative projects. 

The next Environment Committee meeting is scheduled for 2pm on September 9 in Room 280 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. Meetings are open to the public. Check the online schedule, since dates are subject to change. We realize that daytime meetings are hard for many people to attend, so we'll keep you posted!


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