BY: RONNI NEWTON
The West Hartford Town Council is expected to approve a resolution reaffirming the town’s “Clean Energy Community Pledge” at its meeting Tuesday night, joining other Connecticut communities such as Bridgeport, Bristol, Easton, Fairfield, Hamden, North Haven, Plainville, Stafford, Trumbull, and Woodbridge in a commitment to promoting efficiency and use of renewable energy.
“We will be taking our clean energy commitment to the next level,” said Mayor Scott Slifka, who anticipates that the council will approve the resolution, paving the way for a symbolic signing of the pledge during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“We signed a pledge in 2005 to purchase 20 percent of our energy from renewal resources, and we achieved that by 2010,” said Town Manager Ron Van Winkle, who will propose the reaffirmation of the Clean Energy Community Pledge at the council meeting.
Van Winkle said that this pledge now calls for the town to reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2018, which he says will be accomplished in many ways, including changing the types of lights at the town’s pools and other municipal facilities, replacing windows, and adding insulation when replacing roofs.
“It is a very doable thing to set this goal of reducing consumption by 20 percent by 2018,” he said. “We’re already well on our way.”
Slifka said he does not anticipate that approval of the Clean Energy Community Pledge will cost taxpayers anything more. “Reducing energy consumption, that’s a giant cost saving,” he said.
Slifka also hopes that the town will set a good example for residents, as well as other communities on how to conserve energy.
There is no downside to taking the pledge either, he said. “This is a statement of intent. It isn’t binding.”
Slifka said that when the initial resolution was adopted in 2005, it included an incentive for residents to sign select renewal energy providers for their own energy needs. Incentives continue to be part of becoming a Clean Energy Community.
For every 100 points earned for renewable initiatives, a community earns a clean energy system equivalent to a 1 kW solar photovoltaic system. The town has already received several of those photovoltaic cells, which are located on the roofs of Town Hall and Conard High School, based on the level of participation.
The reaffirmation of the pledge represents the “next generation” of West Hartford’s commitment, Slifka said.
Van Winkle said that the town’s part-time Energy Manager Catherine Diviney has already found many ways in which the town can reduce its energy costs. He credits Diviney with also finding grants to fund many of those energy reduction programs, including procurement of a grant from Northeast Utilities that paid for 50 percent of the cost to replace the boiler at Sedgwick Middle School this summer.
“Since we have undertaken this effort, our energy costs have gone down dramatically,” Slifka said.
“Yes, this is a commitment to the environment, to make surewe consume in a clean and renewable way. It is also a reminder that we need to take more of an effort to drive the cost of power down. It’s not just a symbolic statement, it’s an actual cost saving,” said Slifka.
The Clean Energy Communities Program is part of the Energize Connecticut Initiative, which provides incentives to Connecticut municipalities that “improve energy efficiency and promote the use of renewable energy.”
It is actively supported by Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Dan Esty, who said in a news release, “By participating in the Clean Energy Communities program, Connecticut towns and cities have the opportunity to cut costs by supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
Additional information can be found at www.ctcleanenergy.com/communities.