SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
1. Memphis Schools Undertake Sustainability Challenge
Students get hands-on experience learning about energy consumption and sustainable living
Last month, Shelby County Schools in Tennessee held the first annual Sustainable Schools Challenge (SSC) awards ceremony to recognize the outstanding work of students, teachers, and administrators who participated in the first city-wide school sustainability initiative. SACE’s Memphis Energy Organizer, Sandra Upchurch, was part of the SSC steering committee, which was spearheaded by Clean Memphis. SACE’s role in the project was to establish energy savings guidelines and criteria for the nine schools that took part in the SSC. SACE was in attendance at the awards ceremony honoring the schools that made the most progress during the project’s first year.
Clean Memphis’ newest initiative, the SSC, is the brainchild of Janet Boscarino, Executive Director of Clean Memphis. Ms. Boscarino made it a priority to fill a much-needed void after the Green Schools Program, an initiative of the Tennessee Department of Prevention Partnership, was discontinued. Clean Memphis modeled its new SSC effort after the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbons School program.
The SSC is a local certification program that serves as a framework to encourage and recognize schools, administrators, teachers and students who are actively working to create a more sustainable future. Although the program was created to ultimately align with the Green Ribbon Schools program, the SSC meets schools where they are and provides a scaffolding method to the Federal program.
The SSC recently completed its pilot phase, which began with participation from twelve local schools during the 2014-2015 school year. Ultimately, only nine of these twelve schools were able to meet the SSC requirements and participate in the awards ceremony. In order to participate in the SSC Awards Ceremony, all of the participating schools had to complete an application demonstrating progress made in the following areas:
1. Establish and document a school-wide recycling program.
2. Perform an energy audit and take steps to curb consumption.
3. Participate in education program focused on nutrition and wellness and establish a school garden.
4. Plan, promote, and carry out a service-learning project each semester and improve students’ overall environmental literacy.
Each school’s application was objectively evaluated and included a site visit by steering committee members, who conducted a walk-through of each school. Schools were graded on how well they integrated sustainability into the preexisting STEM curriculum.
Memphis Mayor AC Wharton took part in the awards ceremony to congratulate the students and teachers on a successful first year. Mayor Wharton used the analogy of a “trust” in defining the role of green schools working to protect the environment and told the school children that as trustees of our planet, they must make sure that they are caring for our planet for the next generation.
SACE applauds the efforts of Idlewild Elementary for achieving the most reductions in energy consumption of all of the piloted schools – saving a whopping 21% of their total energy consumption. Led by their teachers, Idlewild students conducted energy patrols and audits, which made a significant impact in terms of initiating energy saving behavioral changes. Shelby County School’s Energy Management team played a key role in Idlewild’s success by relamping inefficient lighting with more energy efficient bulbs and installing dimers in hallways that turn off lights when the hallways were empty.
SACE looks forward to continuing to be a part of this effort and working with more schools in Memphis to reduce schools’ energy consumption and save money on energy bills!
From May 18-21, SACE staff attended and presented at the American Wind Energy Association’s annual WINDPOWER conference, which took place in Orlando this year. Consistent with the last time WINDPOWER was held in the Southeast (Atlanta, 2012), SACE was pleased to serve as an event partner for the conference.
SACE Renewable Energy Manager, Simon Mahan, was a panelist on a session, titled “Wind Demand: Offense and Defense” and also presented a poster at the poster session, titled “Southern Wind: The Next Frontier for the Wind Industry.” Primary points in these presentations were that the opportunities for wind energy are growing by leaps and bounds in the South due to coal plant retirements that necessitate building new generation capacity, advancements in wind turbine technology, declines in the cost of wind energy, and a big uptick in Southern utilities purchasing wind power. You can see Simon’s poster here.
In the lead up to WINDPOWER, SACE published a series of eleven blog posts highlighting current topics in wind energy in each Southern state to help build momentum going into the conference. One of the highlights of this blog series was NREL’s updated state-by-state analysis of wind power and economic development potential from modern wind turbines. Turbines have advanced greatly over the past five years, as they are taller with longer blades so that they are able to access better wind speeds, generate more electricity, and reduce costs. These advancements have made many more areas throughout the South attractive for wind energy development, even in places previously considered marginal.
While SACE has recognized this potential for a while, and even published a white paper about it last fall, we were pleased that that U.S. Department of Energy released a report concurrent with the conference and that Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz presented a keynote address that describes this potential and specifically recognizes the Southeast as an area of greatly increased opportunity for wind development.
During the conference, SACE staff blogged daily on issues highlighted at the conference, including the release of this report, which you can read here.
A major component of the WINDPOWER conference is its trade show and expo, which is the largest annual wind power trade show in the world. SACE staff enjoyed visiting with and learning about wind companies working in the Southeast, including AWG, PCE Instruments, GE, Siemens, ZF, SKF, and many more. In spite of minimal wind energy development in our region to date, the wind market elsewhere already provides substantial economic benefits to the Southeast, embodied by these companies. We hope that as the wind potential in the Southeast continues to improve with better technology, we will be able to grow the market for our Southeastern-based wind companies with projects closer to home.
Next year, the conference will stay in the South and be held in New Orleans.
Earlier this year, Georgia Power announced a new $12 million electric vehicle transportation initiative. The program currently includes a residential charging infrastructure rebate program, workplace charging rebates, the installation of charging stations at several sites across the state and the addition of 32 Chevrolet Volts to their company fleet. Georgia Power is also offering an alternative “Time of Use (TOU)” rate plan for electric vehicle (EV) owners.
To top it off, they recently launched a public education campaign, Get Current. Drive Electric.TM that is quite clever. We are thrilled to see the overall transition and messaging behind Georgia Power’s campaign and effort to support electric vehicles (EVs). Combined with their recent solar initiatives, it’s getting cleaner to drive an EV in Georgia every day. In case you haven’t seen them yet, check out some of the initiative’s new ads and testimonials here and consider purchasing or leasing an EV for your next vehicle.
SACE and our allies advocated strongly for the continuation of EV-friendly policies in Georgia and were disappointed that this year’s Transportation bill slams the brakes on Georgia’s successful tax credit for electric vehicles (EVs) and adds a steep, new user fee for drivers of electric vehicles. As a result, Georgia’s current state tax credit for low emissions vehicles will be available only through June 30, 2015, so get it while you can. The federal tax credit will still be available. For more information on the environmental and economic benefits of EVs on electric vehicles, click here. For those of us who already drive an EV, there’s no turning back!
May 12 – 14 in St. Louis, Missouri, SACE was proud to participate as an invited presenter at the 2nd National Adaptation Forum, a biennial event that gathers climate adaptation practitioners together to foster knowledge exchange, innovation and mutual support.
SACE Coastal Climate & Energy Coordinator, Chris Carnevale, presented a poster titled “Clean Energy as Climate Adaptation and Resilience in the Utility Sector.” The primary finding highlighted by the poster is that clean energy bridges the traditional divide between climate mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas pollution) and climate adaptation (preparing for climate impacts). Most importantly, clean energy deployment simultaneously acts as both a mitigative and adaptive strategy. Clean energy benefits include resilience to water stress and natural disasters, availability when and where it’s needed most, and its improvement of air quality, all of which are becoming increasingly important in the face of increasing climate change impacts. You can see the poster here to learn more.
This poster session built upon SACE’s previous work on this issue after putting together and moderating a conference session on the same topic at last year’s Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference, as well as considerable ongoing work on the water-energy nexus. SACE will continue advocating for a clean energy economy to ensure climate impacts can be mitigated through pollution reduction as well as adapted to so that we continue to have clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.