By Gina Melekh (C16)
Two weeks ago I walked into a secured building with simple décor and mismatched furniture. The hallways smelled faintly of disinfectant. But, it is the floors that captured visitors’ attention. It was the cleanest and shiniest floor I have ever seen in my life.
My Role as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow
How can such a level of cleanliness exist in a homeless shelter with transitional housing for over 200 people? I was in McVet - a Baltimore facility with a mission to serve homeless veterans by providing them with shelter, medical care, social support and education before re-integrating them back into the community as productive citizens. McVet prides itself in how well the building is maintained. They leverage the skills their ‘students’ learned in the military to foster discipline and encourage good habits.
McVet is one of 26 facilities benefiting from a nearly $1 million grant provided by Maryland Energy Administration (MEA). The funds are being used to conduct energy audits and implement energy efficiency upgrades, facilitated by Baltimore’s Energy Office, where my fellowship is taking place this summer.
As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am crafting a strategic energy plan for Baltimore City. The Energy Office is responsible for managing energy and fuel for 1,100 government-run facilities and an over 3,000 piece fleet. The Office also uses grant funds to foster energy efficiency and conservation in the city’s nonprofits and small businesses, including McVet.
Energy Efficiency and the Law
Planning for energy efficiency leads not only to cost savings, but it is becoming the law. Gradually, regulations on federal, state and local levels are starting to impact how companies and municipalities manage their energy needs and carbon footprints. Just this June, EPA proposed a Clean Power Plan that would require states to cut carbon emissions from stationary power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels. If it becomes a law next year, this legislation will have a direct impact on energy producers and consumers.
Energy Policy in Baltimore
Once complete, Baltimore’s energy plan will have to be consistent with numerous current Federal, State and Municipal regulations and programs. This includes emPOWER Maryland, and the City’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plans, just to name a few. Together, these programs set ambitious goals for energy efficiency, adoption of new, clean technologies and mitigation and adaption to the changing climate, while preserving economic vitality. Baltimore has already committed to reduce its energy consumption 15 percent by 2015 and increase renewable energy use 20 percent by 2022. There are also greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets and energy resiliency goals to take into consideration while mapping out future strategies and projects.
But, energy policy does not only consist of rules and standards. Financial incentives in the form of grants, rebates and tax credits are an incredibly efficient policy tool that EDF Climate Corps fellows are encouraged to leverage. In addition to grant funds available from the Maryland Energy Administration and other sources across the country, local utilities offer a variety of programs for businesses small and large. Baltimore’s local utility, Baltimore Gas and Electric, runs Smart Energy Savers Program which covers up to 80 percent of costs for energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration upgrades in smaller buildings and up to 50 percent in larger facilities. For the Energy Office, using this program is a no-brainer for getting the biggest impact per dollar invested in energy efficiency, and it is just one of the many variables to consider when setting energy strategy.
Four weeks into my fellowship, I am learning incredible amounts of information on how technology, business, policy and politics interact with each other and the impact energy management has on a municipal level. As I am drafting the foundation of Baltimore’s new energy plan, I realize I have a lot to uncover before a full picture emerges. I hope my work will provide value to Baltimore, and I look forward to sharing progress updates with the EDF Climate Corps community.
About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered nearly $1.3 billion in energy savings. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.
Gina Melekh earned her BA in Finance and Economics from Northwestern College, IA and spent 10 years as a Business Analyst and then Project Manager at Wells Fargo and Olmstead Associates. Intent to apply her quantitative background and organizational skills to help businesses develop more sustainable future, Gina enrolled in the MBA program in sustainable management at Presidio Graduate School where she graduated in May 2014.