Statehouse Live: Manhattan, K-State down Lawrence, KU in energy efficiency contest

? The city of Manhattan and Kansas State University teamed up to win a $100,000 prize by defeating the city of Lawrence and Kansas University in an energy efficiency challenge.

The Lawrence-KU contingent, however, didn’t walk away empty handed; they won a basketball autographed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

And Douglas County posted a victory as Baldwin City won its regional for $100,000.

The awards were announced in the Take Charge Challenge, a statewide energy-savings contest that involved more than 275,000 Kansans from 16 communities.

Residents and businesses competed to see who could save the most energy. The competition was based on three measurements: energy efficiency audits and completed improvements; switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and programmable thermostats; and community involvement and public education.

Manhattan and Lawrence were paired off in the “university” category.

Lawrence actually saved the most energy, which is why it won the basketball. But based on a per-capita measurement, Manhattan was declared the winner and received the $100,000 check.

Former Manhattan mayor Bruce Snead said they kicked off the challenge Feb. 14 at Bramlage Coliseum before the KU-Kansas State basketball game. K-State won that game, and Snead said that momentum carried forward.

“It really energized us,” he said.

But Snead also congratulated Lawrence for doing a great job.

The Lawrence contingent said the friendly competition was an excellent way to promote energy efficiency.

“This was a great program to get energy conservation front and center,” said Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell.

Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Lawrence and Douglas County, said, “This was phenomenal for our community.” She said there were 463 energy audits done in Lawrence, which led to 81 completed projects.

“These people are saving on their utility bills today,” she said.

Horn congratulated Manhattan and K-State, saying their creation of EcoKat, an environmentally friendly mascot, was “well played.”

Baldwin City Mayor Ken Wagner was beaming after receiving a $100,000 check for that city’s win. Baldwin City was in the same region as Paola, Gardner and Ottawa.

“This was great community involvement,” he said. He said the contest, which ran from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, came along just as Baldwin City had started some energy efficiency initiatives. He said the award will be used for various energy efficiency projects in town.

Colby and Fort Scott also were regional winners.

The Take Charge Challenge was coordinated by the Climate and Energy Project and Kansas Energy Office. The award money was provided by federal stimulus dollars.