Be Happy! Right Meow!

Local Breweries partner with the Bellingham Energy Prize

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kilowatt Kitty says, Mark your calendars, right meow!

Throughout the month of July, the Bellingham Energy Prize (BEP) will toast Independents Month with local Bellingham breweries, and there’s a lot to celebrate.

Bellingham continues to score well in the fierce competition for the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize, one of a winnowing number of semifinalist communities invested in reducing energy use in creative ways. If Bellingham comes out on top, the winning funds will be used on local projects that will help the community save in even bigger ways.

“The Bellingham Energy Prize has received tremendous support from independent businesses throughout Whatcom County,” said Amy Vergillo,  communications manager for Sustainable Connections, part of a coalition of creative groups that form BEP. Other partners include Bellingham Public Schools, Cascade Natural Gas, the Opportunity Council, Puget Sound Energy, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, and Western Washington University.

A total of 51 local businesses have come together to promote and participate in growing a community awareness of energy, energy resources and energy conservation, Vergillo explained. These include the Community Food Co-op, Sanitary Services, Barron Heating, and many of our local breweries.

“The breweries in our region continue to prove, time and again, how important they are to our community wellbeing—pitching in and supporting local causes, and many other businesses and organizations when they need it most,” Vergillo said.

This week, Stones Throw Brewery hosted a happy hour for the energy challenge.

“Stones Throw recovers heat from brewing and refrigeration to heat the tap room and preheat water for the next brew,” Vergillo explained. “Boundary has retrofitted all of their lighting to LED lights; Aslan has invested in renewable energy and offsets 100 percent of its impacts with wind power; and Kulshan recycles chilling water from the brewing process, which substantially reduced their water usage and how much has to be heated in the first place. These are just a few of the things each brewer does to save energy,” she said of the breweries that will host the energy happy hours this month.

In January, Mayor Kelli Linville declared 2016 Energy Year in Bellingham, capping a decade of effort in energy conservation that began in 2007 when the city was named the nation’s number one Green Power Community by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A Community Energy Challenge supported by partner organizations has improved the efficiency of scores of homes throughout Whatcom County. Earlier this year, the city released its revised draft of a Climate Action Plan that will update energy and conservation measures for coming decades.

To catalyze communities to develop a cleaner, more efficient energy future, Georgetown University developed the Energy Prize competition, in which 50 moderately sized communities across the US are chosen to compete for the $5 million prize that can be used by the winner to develop additional energy conservation efforts.

Energy conservation will be measured quantitatively by tracking each community’s decrease in energy consumption for residences, participating private schools, municipal buildings and public schools.

Georgetown will use energy consumption data to measure decreased energy consumption. The years 2013 and 2014 form the baseline that will be compared to consumption rates for 2015 and 2016. A panel at Georgetown will combine that data with more subjective analysis of what a community has done to educate and encourage energy conservation, known in the competition as qualitative data.

Several other communities aroudn the state are also among the 50 competing for the prize, including Anacortes, Bellevue, and Walla Walla. Local efforts have been funded in part by Northwest Clean Air Agency and nine other partner organizations. Each is tackling their own part in the challenge.

The list of participating and supportive agencies and businesses continues to grow each day. As part of their Community Energy Challenge, the Opportunity Council continues to offer an in-depth home energy assessment that details energy-saving upgrades specific to homes.

Although the semifinals portion of the competition focuses on the City of Bellingham, anyone can participate and enjoy the energy saving tips and other benefits of the program.
In December, the top 10 semifinalists will advance and submit their final qualitative report. A panel of judges will evaluate the final reports of the top 10 and choose a winner around July of next year.

But Whatcom County has already benefited from the prize competition in conservation and energy savings.

“Conservation and support of renewable energy is a win-win-win for the city, its residents and the climate,” Linville said. “City residents contribute to the fight against climate change, reduce local energy costs, improve their homes, and create a more resilient local energy system.”

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