Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Regional Circuit Rider for Energy Efficiency in Local Government Operations

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Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Federal Funding: $242,651
Project Timeline: April 2011 – June 2014

Project Summary

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Regional Circuit Rider for Energy Efficiency in Local Government Operations project provided training and direct assistance to the governments of the four suburban counties in Greater Philadelphia to develop and implement strategies to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with their operations. This project worked with four of the nine counties within the DVRPC region and focused on the 228 small municipalities that are too small to qualify for Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program and lack the resources of larger cities. DVRPC served as a "one-stop shop" for these municipalities to address the capacity gaps they face in making use of energy-efficiency resources.

The project provided services to 228 municipalities, beginning with outreach on savings opportunities available in energy efficiency and conservation. DVRPC developed and provided trainings, analytical tools, and outreach materials for the municipalities on the benefits and processes for managing energy use and improving energy efficiency in municipal buildings, wastewater treatment facilities, vehicle fleets, employee commutes, and outdoor lighting. DVRPC also provided technical assistance on analytical tools that evaluate energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from local government municipal operations. The Circuit Rider project designed cost-effective packages for reducing energy use in municipally-owned buildings that leveraged available grant funding and incentives to assure a maximum payback period of five years. DVRPC also prepared case studies and monitored and reported data to track outcomes and lessons learned from the project.

During the grant period, DVRPC collaborated with partner organizations and conducted interviews to better understand energy management techniques that have worked well for other local governments and planning committees in the past. A municipal finance roundtable was held in March 2011 to deepen DVRPC’s understanding of municipal funding and financing of energy projects. Other roundtables, seminars, and workshops were held with the goal of bringing together regional municipalities to share experiences and resources.

DVRPC worked closely with nine municipalities in southeastern Pennsylvania to identify opportunities to reduce energy costs in their daily operations. DVRPC and its contractor, Practical Energy Solutions, finalized energy assessment reports for the municipalities that summarize historical energy use and recommendations for energy saving improvements, including costs and payback periods.

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Community Characteristics 

Population:                                 2,438,866

Area:                                         2,031 square miles

Government Type:                       Regional Council

Community Type:                        Urban and Suburban

Median household income:           $61,605 - $83,759

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Final Results

Projected Cumulative Results  

Annual GHG Reductions

74.7 mt CO2e

4,300 mt CO2e

Annual Energy Cost Savings



Annual Electricity Reductions

45.4 MWh

4,500 MWh

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Lessons Learned

  • During the program, DVRPC realized that the major barrier to implementation of municipal energy projects is directly related to the level of commitment within the municipality, not a lack of funding as had been initially expected. The municipalities with the smallest budgets were able to implement projects with the highest costs because the municipality valued these projects as a priority.
  • When projects were not prioritized in the municipality’s budget, DVRPC suggested that the projects were included as “wish list” items on the budget so that they could be explored in future years.
  • Larger measures, especially measures that are not time-sensitive, should be included in the budget several years before the investment is made. This allows for more time to identify funding sources.
  • Municipalities with staffing limitations or a lack of technical experience may need additional advice and assistance throughout the prioritization and implementation phase.
  • To approach energy management at municipal facilities, DVRPC found it beneficial to target low-cost measures first, as these measures often have a quick payback period and therefore demonstrate the benefit of energy management projects to the municipality’s decision-makers.

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  • The Circuit Rider project enhanced the capacity of other regional governments to conduct similar projects of their own.
  • One county so far has applied for additional funding to continue the Circuit Rider program in the county.
  • Municipalities will benefit in the long run from the institutionalization of energy management knowledge and strategies.
  • One municipality created a mayoral-appointed energy committee to ensure that the recommendations from their energy assessment would be implemented effectively.

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