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Office of the State Comptroller - Local Government & School Accountability

Cost-Saving Ideas: Going Green and Saving Greenbacks

Tools and Tips for Municipalities and School Districts

Going Green Brochure [pdf]
Introduction | Some Monitoring Tools | Purchasing Green | Financial Incentives | Additional Tips and Tools | OSC Resources

Introduction

Going green may turn out to be the most affordable option for local governments and school districts of all sizes throughout the State. This brochure [pdf] offers an overview of some of the resources available to officials, including tools to evaluate the cost of current and proposed systems, tips on purchasing, and options for incentives and favorable financing.

Local government and school district officials may have concerns that energy efficiency projects and equipment just aren't worth the cost. However, the savings realized by installing energy-efficient equipment and choosing environmentally friendly products often offset the costs involved. For instance, a recent OSC audit found that six governments could save as much as $944,000 through their installation of solar panels. Now there is more financial and technical assistance than ever before available to officials looking to go green.

Some Monitoring Tools

Resource Accounting – A first step in determining the need for an energy efficiency project is to record current resource use and cost on a regular basis, generally monthly or quarterly. Using this data, consumption and costs can be compared to historical data or to similar facilities. Billing errors, high-cost facilities, abnormal consumption, and operation and maintenance inefficiencies can be identified and corrected.

For additional information:
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP).

Evaluating the Cost of Delay – Energy efficiency projects must compete with other municipal and school district priorities. However, planners cannot assume it is always best to wait until current funds are available, rather than borrowing. Often there is a cost of delay, and there are free tools available that can assist a local government or school district in making that determination:

  • Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator – The US DOE’s Energy Star® program has a free cash flow opportunity calculator [.xls] that users can download to help determine potential savings from energy-efficiency projects and compare financing scenarios.
  • Financial Value Calculator – Energy Star also has a Financial Value Calculator [.xls] available for free download from their website. This tool can help a municipality or school district estimate potential financial returns from increased energy efficiency.
  • Life-Cycle Cost Analysis – This methodology takes into account all costs related to a project - from its design to its disposal - and considers both capital and operation and maintenance costs. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s publication Life-Cycle Cost Analysis Primer [pdf] provides an excellent introduction to this subject.

Purchasing Green

Local governments and school districts can use State contracts administered through the State Office of General Services (OGS) to purchase energyefficient products economically. These contracts cover a variety of office equipment and supplies, automotive replacement parts, alternatively fueled vehicles, lighting, pest management and other items commonly used by municipalities and school districts.

Many of these carry the Energy Star label. Energy Star products meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency. It is estimated that these products use up to 50 percent less energy than conventional items. Benefits of Energy Star labeled products include reduced energy costs, reduced pollution, extended product life and decreased maintenance.

For additional information:
visit OGS’s website on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.

In addition, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers resources that aid local governments and school districts in finding green products that may be purchased in accordance with municipal procurement law. More information on the services it offers municipalities and school districts can be found on its website.

Financial Incentives

Low-interest loans, grant money and other financial incentives may be available for implementing energyefficiency projects. Specific information on these programs can also be accessed through NYSERDA’s website.

Municipalities and school districts contemplating energy-efficient procurements may want to investigate the variety of financing options, such as energy performance contracts and installment purchase agreements. One resource officials may want to investigate is the U.S. DOE’s Innovative Financing Solutions: Finding Money for your Energy Efficiency Projects, which can be found on the Energy Star website.

Tips and Tools

Additional Information for Energy Efficiency can be found on the following websites:

OSC Resources