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New Program Helps Organizations on Tight Budgets Save Money on Utility Bills

Updated: 04/24/2014 6:01 AM
Created: 04/23/2014 2:44 PM KSTP.com
By: Brandi Powell

A new program that has the City of Minneapolis partnering with retired engineers will soon help owners and operators of large buildings save money on utility bills.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS visited the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center to dig into what it's all about.

"I had gotten away from some of the little things because we've got so much going on here, housing 500 people a night, feeding more than that every night," said Dominick Bouza, Operations Director at Salvation Army Harbor Light.

Employees at the non-profit don't have the expertise, time or money to keep track energy use.

"I had other agencies approach me and they were going to charge me $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000, that was really taking food out of people's mouths, we couldn't afford. We don't have that discretionary expenditure here at the Salvation Army," Bouza said.

So the City of Minneapolis is partnering with the Retiree Environmental Technical Assistance Program, or RETAP, to help out large organizations, in big buildings, that are on tight budgets.

"RETAP came in and gave us a free audit of our power usage and our water usage," Bouza said.

The results so far are startling. At Salvation Army Harbor Light they're using 9 million gallons of water a year. RETAP says they need to cut that in half.

"So I just shook my head and said, 'OK, what can we do?' He said, 'Well you've gotten away from the aerators, so changing the shower heads, changing the aerators on the sink and changing the lighting will help cut your bills in half,'" Bouza said. "Any cost realizations we can achieve would be very useful for what we are trying to do here so if we can save $4,000 or $5,000 a year or more on our water usage, we can put that money back into our program."

RETAP has an annual budget of about $50,000, funded by state taxpayers. Right now, there are 15 members of RETAP. They are contractors to the state, but are essentially retired volunteers. That money is used to pay them for some of their time, and to reimburse some costs.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS also sat down with the Environmental Initiatives Manager for the City of Minneapolis to get their reaction to the startling information owners and operators are learning about energy-use in their buildings.

"That's what happens when you start looking at your energy use," said Patrick Hanlon, Environmental Initiatives Manager for the City of Minneapolis. "It raises all sorts of questions." Hanlon added, "For the City of Minneapolis we're looking at our total carbon footprint and looking at ways that we can reduce that carbon footprint."

Here's the City's breakdown of the ordinance:

In 2013, the City of Minneapolis and public partners, such as public schools, were required to submit and publicly disclose energy use information.

This year, buildings over 100,000 square feet are required to submit data.

Next year, all public buildings over 25,000 square feet and all private buildings over 50,000 square feet are required to submit data.

The City of Minneapolis is partnering with the Retiree Environmental Technical Assistance Program, or RETAP, to help out large organizations, in big buildings, that are on tight budgets.
Photo: KSTP

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