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Energy and Global Climate Change in New England

Community Energy Challenge: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What kind of commitment do participants make?

A: Communities that take the Community Energy Challenge agree to:

  • Make a commitment to improve energy efficiency.
  • Assess – benchmark – the energy performance of all municipal buildings, schools and/or drinking water/waste water treatment facilities in the community.
  • Set a goal to reduce energy use by 10% or more.
  • Return a Community Energy Challenge letter to EPA New England.
  • Promote energy efficiency and renewables to citizens, companies and organizations in the community.

Q: Is there a timeframe for reductions? Are there reporting requirements?

A: We ask that participants make a good faith effort to reduce energy use intensity (energy use per square foot). The timeframe for 10% reductions is completely up to participants. There are no reporting requirements as part of the program, but we hope that you'll keep us updated with your successes, and let us know when you meet your goals.

Q: What does the EPA provide?

A: EPA offers:

Free Training and technical assistance

  • Targeted training and technical support in the use of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking software. Assessing performance is the first step toward identifying opportunities to improve energy efficiency through better facility management, upgrades to lighting, HVAC, controls, and other building systems and equipment.
  • Assistance in efforts to increase the use of renewable energy, through renewable energy credits and the development of small scale renewable energy projects.
  • EPA New England and EPA ENERGY STAR contractors will provide free, live web-based training in benchmarking and energy management, including follow up technical support, to all participating communities.


  • EPA New England will recognize community achievements under the Challenge and track overall progress.
  • Participating municipalities may be eligible for national EPA recognition:
    • ENERGY STAR Leaders – for a demonstrated average reduction of 10% or more across all buildings.
    • ENERGY STAR Label – awarded to buildings performing in the top 25% according to the National Energy Performance Rating System.
  • EPA New England will organize additional recognition activities, including, but not limited to: media events to highlight progress; case studies posted on the web; and articles in general and trade publications.
  • EPA will encourage members of our extensive partner network, notably regional utilities, and energy service and product providers, to help Challenge participants implement their energy efficiency plans.

Q: Does the EPA provide funding?

A: No. We do, however, work with organizations – including utilities – that offer free services and, in some cases, grants for renewable energy projects. In addition, we encourage you to use the Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator, which will enable you to determine the cost of waiting on your improvements. Finally, we find that municipalities in New England are taking advantage of performance contracting to help with efficiency improvements. More information is here. Click icon for EPA disclaimer.

Q: Who's in the Challenge?

A: Click here for a map of New England Community Energy Challenge participants (PDF) (1 pg, 3.6 MB, about PDF). The Community Energy Challenge is a regional version of the national ENERGY STAR Challenge for municipalities, called the Local Government Challenge. Visit energystar.gov to see a list of participants from cities and towns across the country participating in the Local Government Challenge.

Q: What happens if we don't make our 10% goal?

A: Participating communities select the timeframe within which to meet their 10% goals. We hope that you choose a timeframe that makes sense for your community. This is an internal target date for your community, not one that is made publicly. There are no penalties for missing your initial target date, and we hope you'll keep trying to meet your reductions goal.

Q: What are the costs associated with reducing energy use?

A: As you might guess, this varies dramatically from community to community. The measures can range from simple, lower-cost steps like a progressive, staggered lighting change-out to a more capital-intensive heating and cooling system upgrade.

A good place to learn about energy efficiency measures and how to calculate costs is The Building Manual, published by ENERGY STAR.

We also recommend that communities use the Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator to explore the cost of waiting to implement energy efficiency upgrades and improved management practices.

Q: We've already had a utility audit. How is this different?

A: An audit conducted by utilities is a great step. However, benchmarking provides information about energy use, cost and greenhouse gas emissions trends over time. You also get a rating for your buildings, which gives a sense of how well each building is performing compared to national averages. In addition, you can track the effect of different energy efficiency measures as well.

Q: Who uses Portfolio Manager?

A: Portfolio Manager is used by a range of organizations, from school districts to multinational corporations. Case studies are online at www.energystar.gov.

Q: Is this Challenge complementary to other environmental programs?

A: Yes. We're working with organizations like ICLEI, which coordinates the Cities for Climate Protection Agreement. The Community Energy Challenge provides concrete tools for taking control of energy use. In addition, the US Conference of Mayors. which encourages mayors across the nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, also supports the ENERGY STAR Challenge for municipalities.

Q: How is Portfolio Manager useful?

A: Portfolio Manager is a free tool found at the ENERGY STAR Web site [www.energystar.gov]. It allows users to track energy use intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy costs over time. Importantly, it also gives ratings to buildings, allowing users to compare building performance to national data collected by the Department of Energy's Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey.

Portfolio Manager users can:

  • Establish an energy use baseline for buildings, making it easy to track improvements in efficiency over time.
  • Uniformly compare progress across communities.
  • Achieve national recognition from EPA.
  • Track further progress in improving energy efficiency in buildings that have been benchmarked, making possible further energy and financial savings.
  • Meet other environmental goals, such as a reduction in local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: Why should municipalities improve energy efficiency and expand use of renewables?

A: Reducing energy use intensity and supporting clean energy benefits cities and towns in a number of ways:

  • SAVES MONEY -- New England has among the highest energy costs in the nation.
    • New England's 1500 cities, towns and associated school districts together spend nearly one billion dollars every year on energy for buildings.
    • Our 4500 public K-12 schools spend more than $500 million on energy – more than on textbooks and computers combined.
  • CUTS POLLUTION -- Energy use is the number one source of air pollution in New England and the nation.
    • Electricity generation alone emits 48% of SO2 and 8% of NOx emissions in New England.
    • Nationally, electricity generation accounts for 43% of mercury emissions and 40% of carbon dioxide emissions.
    • Energy from renewable sources (renewables) emits fewer pollutants during production and use.
  • REDUCES STRAIN ON LIMITED ENERGY SUPPLIES -- Energy demand in New England is growing at 2% per year.
    • Energy efficiency can dramatically reduce the chances of price increases and supply disruptions. It is also the cheapest and most environmentally-sound way to slow this increasing demand.
    • Use of renewables helps diversify energy supply and supports domestic production.
  • ACCESSIBLE AND ACHIEVABLE -- Every community has opportunities to improve energy efficiency and increase use of renewables cost-effectively today.
    • Numerous national studies agree that, on average, 30% of the energy used in commercial, institutional and public buildings is wasted.
    • Savings of 10% or more are well within the reach of every community and school district through sensible management changes and cost-effective upgrades using proven, existing technologies.
    • A 10% reduction across New England's municipal and school buildings could save up to $100 million, prevent billions of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, and save enough energy to power tens of thousands of homes for one year.
    • New England already offers a variety of renewable energy choices.

For more information, contact:
CT and NH: Linda Darveau (darveau.linda@epa.gov), (617) 918-1718
Mass: Jason Turgeon (turgeon.jason@epa.gov), (617) 918-1637
ME, RI, VT: Cynthia Veit (veit.cynthia@epa.gov), (617) 918-1666

Energy Star Photo collage  and the EPA Green Power Partnership mark.

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