With a nod toward Earth Week, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Tuesday that an energy efficiency audit project promoting sustainability will achieve $2 million in energy savings yearly for Cook County businesses, along with a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 150 companies identified considerable energy saving opportunities within their facilities through free energy efficiency audits funded by Cook County’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the U.S Department of Energy.
“Through our energy efficiency program, we want Cook County businesses to realize that investing in an energy audit can reduce greenhouse gases and result in thousands of dollars in annual savings,” President Preckwinkle said. “For a manageable, one-time initial cost, local businesses can achieve higher profits, more job creation, less pollution, and a healthier environment for workers.”
Cook County contracted with The Delta Institute, a not-for-profit organization, to conduct the audits and manage the program for the county. Participating companies were also offered financing to implement the energy-saving recommendations of their audit through the county’s revolving loan fund, administered by The Delta Institute and GreenChoice Bank.
“Every business could benefit from this program in terms of reducing energy consumption at their facility,” said Doug Snower, founder of Green Wheels, an eco-friendly automotive company that sells electric cars, pre-owned Hybrids and electric bicycles, and tunes up regular cars to run cleaner and greener. “The financial rewards can be significant in reduced energy cost, and the financial incentives offered through the program can help with realizing the recommendations and benefits outlined in the energy audit.”
Other businesses participating in the energy audits, funded through the $1.3 million federal energy grant, included AllCell Technologies, a lithium-ion battery manufacturer, and Skolnik Industries, a steel drum manufacturer. Following through on the recommendations of the audit, AllCell borrowed from the county’s loan fund to finance energy savings projects that included retrofitting lighting, weatherizing building walls and windows, and installing rooftop solar panels.
The cost of audits varies depending on square footage and the type of business. The county program’s audits average between $8,000 to $10,000, but cost participating businesses nothing.
The Hispanic Housing Development Center also benefited greatly from the county’s energy efficiency financing program. The county’s revolving loan fund lent approximately $350,000 to HHDC, a nationally recognized developer and manager of affordable housing in Chicago and surrounding states. The loan will purchase solar panels for a significant number of multi-family buildings that HHDC is currently upgrading.
According to Kevin Dick, project manager for The Delta Institute, the energy audits will result in more than 19 million in kilowatt hours of electricity saved, equivalent to the annual usage of 2,500 homes in Cook County. The audits also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 16,000 tons every year, equal to the carbon footprint of 4,000 people per year.
Buildings account for 40 percent of the nation’s energy use, using precious natural resources and affecting the health of those who live and work in them, according to The Delta Institute. With over five million office buildings in the United States, and with people spending over 90 percent of their time indoors, improving building operations can have a big effect on the environment and public health.
Industrial buildings are also large energy users, with the energy intensity of industrial processes expected to grow 30 percent by 2030. Food processing and metal manufacturing are two of many industries in Cook County that are energy intensive.
For more information about the energy audit project, contact Deborah Stone, director of the Department of Environmental Control and chief sustainability officer, at 312-603-8204, or access The Delta Institute’s website at www.delta-institute.org