Energy conservation initiative

Bond issue supports energy conservation, job creation

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9:20 a.m., Aug. 19, 2011--A major energy conservation initiative now under way in Delaware promises to reduce the state's carbon footprint and create more jobs at the same time. Earlier this month the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) closed on the first Energy Efficiency tax-exempt bond issue in the nation. The proceeds from the bond offering—approximately $72.5 million—combined with $11.27 million in project funds from the state of Delaware means that nearly $84 million of energy conservation projects will begin work immediately. 

These projects are expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs in the state and at the same time save the state more than $23 million, after all costs of the projects are paid. These projects also will lower the state's overall exposure to uncertain energy prices in the future and will measurably reduce its carbon footprint.

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The Delaware SEU, a nonprofit entity that works to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy services, was developed by John Byrne, Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at the University of Delaware, along with his colleagues in UD's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy. 

Byrne, who serves as co-chair of the SEU Board, said that the bond issue will have a significant effect on the First State. "The SEU bond is three times the size of federal stimulus funds provided to Delaware for sustainable energy investment," Byrne said. "And, it is over 3.5 times larger than the national program to promote renewable energy development through property-assessed clean energy bonds (commonly known as PACE bonds). Having received a AA+ rating from S&P, the market has spoken—the SEU's investment in clean energy is able to compete with the best investment vehicles around." 

The bonds are backed by guaranteed money savings pledged by six participating energy service companies implementing the energy conservation projects (Pepco Energy Services, NORESCO, Johnson Controls, Ameresco, Trane and Honeywell). State agencies participating in the program include the Department of Corrections, the Carvel State Office Building, the headquarters of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Legislative Hall complex in Dover, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical and Community College.

Delaware Sen. Harris McDowell, author of the legislation that created the SEU and co-chair of its board, said, "Energy efficiency is our cleanest, cheapest, most widely available energy resource. This program will lead the nation by setting the standard for other states and public institutions to follow in reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy, reducing the state's carbon footprint, all in the context of saving the taxpayers money by decreasing the amount of energy the state agencies use." 

Collin O’Mara, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said this initiative combines good fiscal management with environmental responsibility. “By dedicating energy savings toward facility improvements, the state will minimize its environmental footprint and reduce costs for the next two decades.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell called it a win-win-win. "Creating construction jobs, reducing operating expenses and modernizing aging government buildings is a true win-win-win for Delaware,” he said. “Through this significant investment, Delaware will become a national leader in demonstrating both the economic and environmental benefits of energy conservation and efficiency.”

The concept of the SEU was created in 2007 by Byrne and McDowell, and then introduced into legislation by McDowell. The program created the first entity in the country to coordinate the energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy efforts of a state. 

With the federal government's difficulty in formulating a national energy policy, Byrne noted that it is extremely important that the states take the lead in helping guide the country through these times of volatile energy prices and reduced fiscal resources. 

As Byrne says, “The SEU creates a model that allows the state of Delaware and the University to be in the forefront of the energy policy debate not only nationally but also internationally."

Byrne recently delivered the keynote address on the prospects for a clean energy future at the sixth annual Clean Energy Forum of the Asian Development Bank, attended by some 200 policy-makers and regulations. "The communiqué concluding the forum recommends the adoption of the SEU model by member countries. Naturally, this reflects favorably on the goal of our University being globally engaged.”

A member of the UD faculty since 1981, Byrne is Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy and directs the University's Center for Energy and Environmental  Policy. A renowned authority on climate change, he served from 1992 to 2008 on the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the panel's authors and review editors.

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