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SWAP 3: How Atlanta garners energy efficiency through limited state support

By Stephanie Stuckey, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Atlanta on May 01, 2017

In the United States, the buildings in which we work and live use roughly 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. economy at a cost of over $400 billion, and the City of Atlanta is highly motivated to help curb energy costs as a major U.S. city.

By participating in the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP, Atlanta aims to support the Department of Energy’s goal of helping businesses save nearly $40 billion annually on energy costs, enabling them to grow, invest in new technology, and create American jobs. Our city is dedicated to create proven solutions throughout our public facilities and lighting systems that increase energy efficiency, providing savings that lead to additional community benefits to the City of Atlanta.

As the nation’s leader in the amount of square footage participating in the Better Buildings Challenge with over 111 million sq. ft., the City of Atlanta had a lot of obstacles to overcome from a funding perspective, since the State of Georgia does not invest in clean energy initiatives at the rate of Massachusetts, which houses our SWAP 3 partner, Boston. Atlanta still remains committed to achieving sustainably operating buildings and facilities, ensuring our communities reap the benefits of a green community. 

One of the biggest takeaways we learned in Season 3 of the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP was how well the greater Boston community engaged in energy efficiency practices. The State of Massachusetts has a well-informed electorate on energy, so we really wanted to take from their community engagement practices and determine a way to apply it in Atlanta.

Boston shared some excellent tips for community engagement, and our team here in Atlanta will have to both apply those best practices and develop a larger body of resident support. As the Boston energy team pointed out, there are a lot of behavioral opportunities for our community to improve efficiency practices with a few simple corrections – such as unplugging unused outlets and using multiple thermostats in unison. In order to reach residents active in creating a healthier Atlanta, we aim to apply these tips and best practices the City of Boston has shared with our leadership.

Gaining the level of community support to enact greater energy efficiency practices is a challenge in Georgia, but it’s not impossible. We’ve already made great progress with the Better Buildings Challenge in making our Hemphill Water Treatment significantly more efficient with variable speed drive technology in the water pumps, improving water quality for our community while helping to reduce costs.

The Boston team did a great job identifying additional opportunities at some of our massive facilities, like adjusting the HVAC system in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to improve airflow throughout the building, creating a more comfortable environment for visitors and residents of our great city.

Our team here in Atlanta is working to apply what we’ve learned from Boston and get increased engagement from the community, and we’ll work to ensure Atlanta residents are voting for people and propositions that will bring greater energy efficiency to the area.