Editorial: Energy plan a smart move

The city’s investment in energy efficiency is money well spent.

The Lawrence City Commission was right to invest in increasing the energy efficiency of city buildings.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve $11.3 million in energy-efficient improvements to lighting, heating and cooling systems, and other city equipment.

The project is part of the state’s Facilities Conservation Improvement Program, which the city joined in December 2015. Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Lawrence and Douglas County, said FCIP reviewed the energy savings estimates.

The financing of the improvements was attractive to commissioners. The projects will be funded by “green bonds,” which will be paid back over 22 years with the savings generated by the efficiency improvements.

The general contractor for the project is Lawrence-based 360 Energy Engineers. The firm completed an energy audit of all city facilities and has guaranteed the energy savings as part of a performance contract with the city. Horn said a legal team reviewed the performance contract with 360 Energy Engineers.

The improvements include 30 projects, affecting all 50 of the facilities operated by the city. Projects begin in March and include:

• Energy and indoor air quality improvements at the Indoor Aquatic Center: about $1.7 million

• LED lights and updated controls for all city buildings: about $1.4 million.

• Updated lighting for sports fields operated by the Parks and Recreation Department: about $1.3 million.

• And upgrades, additions and optimization of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for all city buildings: about $1.1 million

“It’s going to yield some really visible and exciting energy saving projects for the city,” Horn said. “And we’re going to get to do them all at once, which we never get to do.”

It is the first time that green bonds will be used to fund a Kansas project.

Ongoing efficiency improvements to county facilities have already reduced energy costs by 30 percent or more at several county buildings including the Douglas County Courthouse, Law Enforcement Center, United Way Building and Douglas County Extension Office.

It’s always smart to invest taxpayer dollars in efficiency improvements that produce a tangible return on that investment. The energy-efficiency improvements approved by the city fall into that category, and the creative financing program being used benefits taxpayers as well.

A smart move by commissioners that will pay off for years to come.