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Milwaukee meets the challenge with energy efficiency initiatives

As cities across the country look to reduce their operating expenses in 2014 and beyond, one cost-cutting strategy that has proved particularly effective is energy efficiency.

Through programs such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, which encourages energy retrofits and other initiatives aimed at reducing energy use, cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin are saving money that can be channeled into citizen services rather than electric bills.

According to Mayor Tom Barrett, energy efficiency efforts are already saving Milwaukee city buildings more than half a million dollars, the Journal Sentinel reported last year. Moreover, the city is halfway toward achieving its goal to reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2020, says Maria Vargas, director of the Better Buildings Challenge.

Milwaukee is one of the national leaders in the Better Buildings Challenge, along with Atlanta, Pittsburg, Cleveland and Seattle, according to Vargas.

“What I like about what Milwaukee and Atlanta both are doing is that they’re working not only in city buildings, but they’re working with their local business community and driving that change,” Vargas said.

The showcase for Milwaukee’s energy efficiency efforts is its Central Library, which replaced old lights with compact fluorescent and LED ones, and added solar panels to its roof. These and other energy-saving strategies have already reduced that 457,000-square-foot building’s energy use by 15 percent.

According to the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) Building Technology Roadmap, combining building efficiency improvements — made possible by products of chemistry — with lower-carbon fuels could lead to a 41 percent reduction in energy use and a 70 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Look for the innovators behind energy-saving technologies that enable high-performance building insulation, efficient lighting, low-e glass and solar power, and you’ll find American chemical manufacturers.


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