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Walla Walla recognized in nationwide competition for reduction of energy use

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WALLA WALLA, WA - The city of Walla Walla, Washington, was recognized as a top community in the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), a two-year, nationwide competition that brought together 50 communities in rethinking the way America’s small- to medium-sized towns, cities, and counties use energy. While the prize went to the City of Fargo, North Dakota, Walla Walla was recognized with one of the best performances overall in terms of the absolute reduction of energy use.

In the final round, 10 top performing cities and counties were selected based on absolute reduction of energy use and then were evaluated on their energy-saving approach, performance, and prospects for nationwide replicability and scalability.

The city of Fort Collins, Colorado, won second place and the cities of Takoma Park, Maryland, and Bellingham, Washington, tied for third place.

“Community-based initiatives are rising to the forefront of our national conversation about sustainability,” said Energy Prize executive director Uwe Brandes. “The communities that have participated in this competition have invented and implemented new approaches to reduce energy consumption and on that journey they have saved money and provided new leadership models for other communities to act.”

Over the last month a panel of judges representing academia and industry evaluated each community’s approach to innovative, replicable, and scalable energy efficiency programs. The 10 finalist communities were scored in weighted categories, including innovation; potential for replication; likely future performance; equitable access, community and stakeholder engagement; education; and overall quality and success. The winner was selected based on a combination of energy performance scores and the creation and advancement of new best practices over the course of the two-year energy-saving period.

“Walla Walla was the second highest performing community in the prize in overall reduction of energy. The community leader, Sustainable Living Center, assembled and coordinated a diverse coalition within the community which included dedicated efforts to engage veterans and senior citizens” said Brandes, who prior to joining Georgetown was Senior Vice President of the Urban Land Institute and is now faculty director of the master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning at Georgetown. “Grassroots engagement of lower-income residents was achieved through the ‘Quick Check’ program and made Walla Walla’s efforts inclusive and equitable.”

Walla Walla was one of the highest performing communities in terms of absolute reduction of energy use, ranking second in overall energy score. In particular, the evaluation committee wanted to recognize Walla Walla’s grassroots programming to lower-income residents through their home energy “Quick Check” program, with specific outreach to veterans and senior citizens. The introduction of the City Waste Reduction and Conservation Policy in 2015, which monitors energy use by municipal building, was another notable achievement.

The Energy Prize released the complete set of data and calculations which document the overall energy reduction achieved by each of the cities that completed the competition. This comprehensive data is available on its website www.guep.org. Leading up to the final stage of the competition, communities were ranked by overall energy score, which quantified each community’s energy-saving performance during the 2015 and 2016 competition years. The score measured the percentage by which a community reduced energy against its 2013 and 2014 use. The overall energy score comprised 10 percent of the final qualitative evaluation. The 10 finalist communities ranked by overall energy score follow:

  1. Chula Vista, California (-9.5450)

  2. Walla Walla, Washington (-9.1141)

  3. Takoma Park, Maryland (-7.8790)

  4. Fargo, North Dakota (-6.8472)

  5. Fort Collins, Colorado (-6.0757)

  1. Berkeley, California (-4.7207)

  2. Oberlin, Ohio (-4.5536)

  3. Bellingham, Washington (-4.4243)

  4. Montpelier, Vermont (-4.2793)

  5. Bellevue, Washington (-4.2333)

Since 2014, 50 cities and counties across the U.S. have worked to reduce their energy consumption through engagement in the competition. At the end of 2016, these communities had collectively saved 11.5 trillion BTUs of energy, reducing their carbon emissions by an estimated 2.76 million metric tons—the equivalent of taking one car off the road for every 30 minutes of the competition—and saving nearly $100 million from municipal and household energy budgets.

“The evaluation panel was thoroughly impressed with the deeply thoughtful and creative approach so many communities took throughout the competition,” said Brandes. “Each realized substantial savings and brought greater attention to this important issue, proving that small- and medium-sized communities across the United States are in the position to design and promote innovative strategies and further national and international conversations about energy use.”

“Their ingenuity and effective performance show us what is possible and will serve as valuable models for other communities seeking to innovate their practices. They have a lot of lessons to teach us all,” said Brandes.