Coon Rapids changes course on energy use tracking project

The Coon Rapids City Council has changed course on being part of a program to quantify the community’s energy use and provide data to track that consumption.

Back in July 2012, the council decided not to participate in the Urban Land Initiative (ULI) regional indicators initiative.

But on the recommendation of both city staff and the city’s Sustainability Commission, the consensus of the council at a Feb. 26 work session was to become part of the ULI project.

The cost to the city for 2013 is $3,000 and will come from the city manager’s professional services budget.

The information from the program “can be used to review annual data trends within the community, see how we compared to other communities and plan for goal setting and targeted reductions of future sustainability endeavors,” Public Works Director Tim Himmer wrote in a report to the council.

In deciding not to participate in July 2012, the council believed that the city could do the work in-house, but there were concerns about what would be done with the information and if it would be of benefit to the city.

ULI launched the regional indicators pilot project in 2011 in three cities – Edina, St. Louis Park and Falcon Heights – and in 2012 expanded it to another 20 communities, including Coon Rapids.

According to Himmer, ULI retained the engineering firm of LHB Inc. to manage the project, which included collecting, processing and interpreting four years of utility information.

“This information can then be used to assist in developing comprehensive plans for reducing the overall carbon footprint by a community,” Himmer wrote in his report.

In addition, the city will be able to work with the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, which would assist the city in developing best management practices related to overall energy use and potential reductions.

According to its website, Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.

This free continuous improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership, is based on 28 best practices, the website states.

In Himmer’s view, the regional indicators initiative is a ideal way to further the efforts of the Sustainability Commission to promote improvements and programs that would result in fewer environmental impacts.

In recommending the council approve participation in the ULI program, the commission gave six reasons.

• The report will provide a substantial amount of information to the commission as the city moves closer to committing to become a “green-sustainable” community with measurable up-to-date data, but it can also assist city departments with future planning.

• Staff and the commission do not have the time or resources to gather this data on a regular basis.

• Topics align with areas in which the city and commission are already working and would provide a good starting point to direct future focused efforts.

• Allows for benchmarking and future goal setting.

• The ability to see how Coon Rapids compares with other metro cities and to learn from one another by collaborating on initiatives that will achieve better results that meet priorities.

• Information would be readily available, which wasn’t the case last year when the commission prepared its sustainability report.

According to its website, the Urban Land Institute provides leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. ULI is an independent global nonprofit supported by members representing the entire spectrum of real estate development and land use disciplines, the website states.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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