Albuquerque Challenges Local Buildings to Reduce Energy Use

Maia Rodriguez

The City of Albuquerque took a huge step toward its greenhouse gas reduction goals today by kicking off the Albuquerque Mayor’s Energy Challenge program, a voluntary private-sector energy challenge designed to incentivize and support local businesses in their efforts to reduce energy consumption. In exchange for the commitment to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent over the course of five years, the Mayor’s Energy Challenge will provide participants with tailored technical support and education on the best ways to reduce their energy use and the broader carbon footprint of their operations. The Energy Challenge seeks to reduce participants’ energy consumption through one or more of three paths: building efficiency, site efficiency, and transportation efficiency. Building efficiency refers to the nuts and bolts of the building itself, while site efficiency involves creating well-designed and energy efficient surroundings via water efficiency and smart landscaping to keep surface temperatures cool. The transportation efficiency leg of the program will encourage businesses to lower their carbon footprint by incentivizing the use of public transit and providing electric vehicle-friendly infrastructure on site.

Private sector energy challenges are regional opt-in programs that invite building owners and managers to reduce their energy consumption over a specific period of time. The foundation of a private sector energy challenge is voluntary energy benchmarking—allowing buildings to measure and track energy use over time and pinpoint areas for improvement. In return for their energy benchmarking and ambitious energy reduction commitments, participants are typically rewarded with exclusive trainings and peer learning opportunities to help further their reduction goals, then are eventually recognized for the progress made over the full duration of the challenge program. The ambitious 20 percent energy use reduction goal of this program mirrors that of other successful private sector challenge programs, including Atlanta’s Better Buildings Challenge, Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge, and the Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge.

Given the building sector’s large carbon footprint (buildings account for over 40 percent of total energy consumption nationwide), Albuquerque’s Mayor’s Energy Challenge is a crucial step toward achieving Mayor Keller’s greenhouse gas reduction goals as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. The Climate Challenge network of local and national partners supports the City of Albuquerque along with 24 other American cities in achieving their innovative carbon-reducing goals through buildings, energy, and transportation-oriented policies and programs.

This isn’t the only notable effort the city is making toward its climate goals; Albuquerque is taking the necessary steps to lead by example with their own operations too. Since kicking off the city’s internal energy reduction program, Albuquerque has already benchmarked the energy use of 126 municipal buildings, and the city will soon be putting together a list of buildings to pursue an energy services performance contract, or ESPC, with the goal of cutting municipal energy use by 65 percent by 2025. And it’s not just energy efficiency the city is focused on—Albuquerque has also committed to transitioning their municipal light-duty vehicle fleet to a 100% clean fleet, and is in the process of developing a new 50MW solar energy facility in partnership with the Jicarilla Apache Tribal Nation to put Albuquerque on the path to emissions-free energy.

Graphic: Brandon Eagan

Today’s kick-off event included opening remarks from Mayor Tim Keller, himself a former business owner with a personal understanding of the needs of local businesses. Given this understanding, the program was designed to cater specifically to the needs of small businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses under 7,000 square feet are eligible for special one-on-one technical assistance from local partners AMM Consulting and eSolved, who developed the Mayor’s Energy Challenge with support from experts with the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. With this focus on small businesses, the Energy Challenge currently has 18 total participants committed, half of which are small businesses, and will be accepting participants to join until mid-April. Albuquerque businesses of all sizes can sign up to commit to the Mayor’s Energy Challenge here.

Mayor Keller also recognizes that energy reduction in the private sector is a benefit not only to the business owners themselves, but also for the entire Albuquerque community; the green economy is booming, and Albuquerque is no exception. Dollars spent on energy efficiency measures are investments in the local economy, and those investments support jobs for local contractors, engineers, and others in the buildings and energy sectors. Currently, one out of every six construction jobs in the U.S. is energy efficiency related, and in 2018 there were over 76,000 new energy efficiency jobs created—that’s the most new jobs of any energy sector in the country. This program can help Albuquerque tap into the economic potential that energy efficiency holds, and with the tools provided by the Mayor’s Energy Challenge team, participants will ultimately be able to cut costs and reinvest savings into their business and their community.

About the Authors

Olivia Walker

Equitable Building Decarbonization Advocate, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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