Now today, we are in a world where energy solutions are more broadly appreciated for their economic, social and environmental sustainability benefits. And now we are seeing sustainable energy initiatives being taken by residents and municipalities – at the community-wide level. These include “community choice aggregation” efforts to pool buying power for renewable energy, and municipal programs variously referred to as “Green Communities”, “Energy Cities”, “Smart Cities”, etc. For communities, this changed perspective means that energy supply, energy use, energy and water-using equipment are now being approached in more comprehensive ways, such as:
- Purchasing municipal energy through aggregation services.
- Generating electricity with solar and wind installations.
- Hardening critical equipment and facilities – police, fire, hospitals, schools against flood and other extreme weather events.
- Maximizing efficiencies in vehicles, water and waste water, street lighting, and other municipal equipment
- Supporting and enforcing more stringent energy efficient building codes.
- Promoting and providing alternatives to car-centered transportation.
There are costs to all these things but there are immediate and long-term benefits, too. One of the largest questions, though, is “Are communities getting the benefits and the cost-effectiveness they expect?” This becomes challenging, as the community initiatives are addressing broader reliability, resilience, economic development and sustainability goals that require a very different form of evaluation. An engineering maxim is ‘If you can measure it, you can manage it. But some benefits, such as wider health and economic development effects, are challenging to measure. EDR Group, and our colleagues at sister company EBP in Switzerland and Chile, are pursuing these issues by conducting evaluations across the spectrum of community energy programs. Stay tuned for more information as more results of these studies are released in the future!