Community’s ranking drops in energy competition | ParkRecord.com

Community’s ranking drops in energy competition

Solar panels have been installed at the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center as part of the energy-saving competition. Summit County has dropped five spots in the second quarter to No. 6. (Angelique McNaughton/Park Record)

The traction that Summit County gained in the beginning of Georgetown University’s national energy-saving competition has started to slip away as the latest results indicate the community has fallen off the top of the leaderboard.

Georgetown University officials recently released the second quarter rankings for the 50 communities participating in the contest to pursue a $5 million prize. Summit County is currently ranked No. 6, down five spots from the first quarter.

Mary Christa Smith, project manager for Summit Community Power Works, which is the local non-profit organization spearheading the county’s entry, said she wasn’t surprised the rankings had changed.

"The first pool of data is such a small metric to work with so I wasn’t surprised because they complied more data," Smith said. "I was pleased to see that we are still in the top 10. Hopefully this inspires people to take action and it is absolutely within reach. We will have to work for this because won’t be handed to us."

The second quarter rankings are based on competition data results from January through June. Huntsville, Ala. currently holds the No. 1 spot, with Winter Park, Fla., and Aspen, Colo., coming in second and third, respectively. Holland, Mich., and Fargo, N.D., round out the top five.

From a friendly, ski-competition perspective, Aspen is a "really good community for us to be pushing to beat," Smith said.

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"We have looked at our own data and we are very pleased to see that residential and municipal natural gas and electricity use is declining per capita so we are seeing reductions," Smith said. "For me, what was really exciting to see was the reduction that the residents are making. Individual homeowners are taking steps to reduce their consumption and that is what is exciting."

The Georgetown University energy competition measures residential and municipal consumption of electricity and natural gas over a two-year period. The competition began Jan. 1.

Summit Community Power Works has led several community-wide initiatives since the community was announced as a finalist, including an LED Switch that encourages the replacement of incandescent lightbulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs.

"For us, the way we are going to climb in the rankings to No. 1 is for every resident to take it on as their personal opportunity and challenge to reduce our consumption," Smith said. "But at-the-meter reduction is only 25 percent of the score. The other 75 percent has to do with is it replicable and does it produce on going reductions? In those other areas we feel we are doing an excellent job and we feel that within the constraints they are more broadly applicable."

As the competition enters its second and final year, Summit Community Power Works has revamped its efforts with a redesigned website and two upcoming initiatives.

The first program that will come online in 2016 will be a bulk purchase of smart thermostats for residents, which can be accessed remotely from a cellphone.

"It will reduce consumption up to 25 percent and is it is an easy fix," Smith said. "We will have the details for that on our website by the end of January. We are really excited about that and our work with the different HOAs and property managers because it makes maintenance so much simpler and can show a substantial reduction."

The other initiative is a program to offer a community bulk purchase solar program for residents that will be done in partnership with Utah Clean Energy.

"We had a program that ran in 2013 and we will be running a similar program in 2016," Smith said. "The last time the program was run it was for 30 percent off of retail for solar. It is an amazing opportunity to take advantage of."

Smith said the two initiatives, in addition to continuation of the LED Switch, will contribute to a significant reduction "if people are willing to join in and make those changes big or small."

The county is among 50 communities attempting to significantly reduce energy consumption throughout the next two years. It "challenges towns, cities and counties to rethink their energy use and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency," according to the energy prize website.

To sign up to participate in the competition visit http://scpw.org/ . Summit Community Power Works also has a Facebook page. For more information about the Georgetown Energy Prize visit http://www.guep.org or go to http://guep.iconics.com/ to view the community rankings.