Leesburg Reviews Defunct Government Energy-Saving Policy

Almost a decade ago, members of the Leesburg Town Council set the ambitious goal of reducing energy consumption in the town government by 10 percent. Turns out, the plans to achieve that goal never got off the ground.

While the resolution with the 10 percent reduction goal was adopted by the council, the committee organized by town staff to develop an energy conservation plan was never endorsed by the council. A formal audit to measure whether any energy reduction had taken place was also never conducted, nor was methodology on how to measure energy reduction in relation to community growth formalized, Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel said.

Adding to that, the town’s population grew almost 30 percent during the four-year window the Town Council initially hoped to reduce energy by 10 percent.

Last year, members of the town’s Environmental Advisory Commission asked the council members to take another look at reducing energy within the town government. For example, they proposed to spend $50,000 to install a monitoring system that would assess the energy usage of some of the town’s highest energy-consuming buildings, like Ida Lee Park Recreation Center. While the initiative was originally added to the fiscal year 2017 budget, it was eventually taken out.

It was also an initiative the town staff wasn’t particularly behind, Markel said.

“It didn’t get into what the energy demands of a building were,” Markel said, noting that the measurement wouldn’t indicate whether the high-energy usages was coming from a ventilation system, a pump, the air conditioning, or another energy draw.  “The concern was we would know what the power demand is but we don’t know what’s causing it. Would it really give us actionable data to regulate how we use power in facilities?”

But town staff members, without council direction, have taken the initiative to implement some energy-saving measures. The Leesburg Police Department has purchased more fuel efficient cars; the airport has gone through a major conversion to LED lighting in the terminal and parking lights; and the Utilities Department has also installed LED lighting and variable speed pumps that are more efficient, as just a few examples.

“Without any push from the council we’re implementing [energy-saving measures] where we can as dollars allow,” he said.

Markel said, in retrospect, the 10 percent energy reduction goal adopted by the council in 2008 was “unrealistic” given the explosive growth of the town.

“Without major system change-ups or funding it’s just not realistic,” he said.

While there did not appear to be a consensus on the council as to how to proceed, Councilman Ron Campbell said he was left with a lot of “uneasiness.”

“While I appreciate the efforts staff has done on its own, we’re either left with doing nothing; we’re left with a resolution from 2008 that hasn’t been acted on; we’re left with important questions about how to spend money or conserve resources,” he said. “I’d like to see the council seriously consider whether or not that’s a resolution that still stands or whether we need to relieve the action that was taken in 2008, or revise based on direction from town staff. I’d like to know what investments we do need to make as we look at budgets and priorities. To have no measurements in almost 10 years is probably just not appropriate.”

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

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