New Web Tool Offers Energy Use Analysis

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) announced the launch of the Community Energy Opportunity Finder, an interactive website that calculates potential energy and dollar savings, air pollution emissions reductions, and potential jobs a community could create by implementing an energy efficiency program.

Snowmass, Colorado – March 15, 2004 [] “Economic development professionals tend to focus exclusively on recruiting new businesses,” said Michael Kinsley, founder of RMI’s Community Services team. “Most simply don’t know that there are business development and job creation opportunities in energy efficiency and renewable energy.” The Finder will give community members or leaders a tool to link changes in a municipality’s energy use to economic impacts. Users of the Finder website enter basic information about their city or town, its energy use, and its physical characteristics. The Finder then allows the user to create and save multiple scenarios for the community, using different economic assumptions. Finder users don’t need a lot of technical expertise to take advantage of its planning features, so active community groups can use it as easily as community officials. According to RMI, the Finder doesn’t take the place of an economic development consultant, but is intended to provide the equivalent of an energy consultant’s preliminary analysis. Energy efficiency works as an economic development engine in two ways. First, investment is required in devices and equipment-efficient motors, efficient lights, and the labor required to, for example, insulate homes and commercial and industrial buildings. All of these activities create jobs. Secondly, utility bills for residences and businesses are reduced, freeing up money to spend in other ways. This money improves people’s lives and allows further investment in the community. The city of Sacramento provides a compelling example, according to RMI. In 1987 Sacramento voters refused to allow the municipal utility company to invest in a nuclear electric generation plant. The utility responded by helping customers use energy more efficiently, which avoided the need for new electricity generation (power is ambiguous). It also had the unanticipated side effect of creating 880 new jobs and increasing regional income by $124 million. A team of RMI researchers developed the Finder in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. The Finder website relies on research from The Community Energy Workbook, written in 1994 by former RMI researchers, Alice Hubbard and Clay Fong. RMI’s other partner in the project, the Land Information Access Association, a non-profit group that helps communities cope with the impacts of changing land use, programmed the Finder’s engine to do the necessary calculations.
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