Wu announces next steps for municipal energy efficiency upgrades

Mayor Michelle Wu announced that the City of Boston will begin an inventory of all its exterior lights as a part of Renew Boston Trust (RBT), a self-funding finance mechanism that uses the cost savings from efficiency projects to pay for themselves. The City of Boston plans to convert all electric lighting to efficient LED fixtures in alignment with its carbon neutrality goals. The City released a request for qualifications in July 2021 and selected the contractor Ameresco, Inc to move forward with the audit. Ameresco will be charged with auditing exterior lighting as well as recording its location, technology, condition, and other relevant data over the next six months.

The initial audit of the exterior lighting is being conducted as the first step in the process. Using the collected data, the City will develop energy conservation measures designed to reduce the amount of electricity and natural gas used by the City’s streetlights, traffic lights, athletic field and park lights, and school department security lighting. The work to improve the efficiency of the fixtures will be implemented in stages over several years. This stage of the Renew Boston Trust project has already been allocated $10.0 million in capital funds.

This announcement builds off the progress of the RBT building energy efficiency program,  including the most recent work on Phase III. This phase of the program is the most ambitious yet, conducting lighting improvements, water conservation, building envelope improvements, and pipe insulation upgrades in nine Boston Public Schools, one police station, and one property management facility. The selected properties include the Parkman House, the C-6 Police Station, City Hall, and the JFK Elementary, Condon K-8, Taylor Elementary, Russell Elementary, Tynan Elementary, Murphy K-8, Ohrenberger School (3-8), Otis Elementary, and the Boston Latin Academy schools. The schools were selected based on the Opportunity Index with schools prioritized that were not already scheduled for Capital improvements over the next five years. Mayor Wu’s FY23 budget contains $65 million in City capital funds for the continuation of Phase III of the RBT program. 

“We have a unique opportunity to update our municipal buildings and exterior lighting in a way that preserves Boston’s character and aligns with our broader environmental goals,” said Mayor Wu. “I am excited to work on ensuring our city is saving energy and the associated costs while bringing us closer to our net zero goals.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with the City on their forward progress to become more energy efficient through LED lighting retrofits,” said Pete Christakis, Senior Vice President, Ameresco. “This retrofit will not only reduce energy spend for the City but also result in a significant reduction of carbon emissions. We commend the City leadership for championing this project as another piece of the decarbonization puzzle.”

The initial phase of exterior lighting retrofits is expected to focus on replacing electric streetlights that use conventional technology with LED technology.  It is estimated that of the 80,000 streetlights, 14,000 are conventional. There are also 2,800 natural gas street lamps that account for 4 percent of streetlights across the city, but account for 37 percent of the emissions from all streetlights. The retrofit of these gas lamps will occur in stages, after community engagement opportunities and input. 

“We know that the Renew Boston Trust mechanism works for reducing our energy expenses and our carbon emissions,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “The first two phases of RBT have saved significant greenhouse gas emissions and nearly $1.1 million in debt service. We are particularly excited that this phase has a green jobs component with a portion of our spending supporting residents flowing into the City’s green transformation.” 

“In addition to substantial energy savings, upgrading our streetlights to LED will reduce maintenance costs, increase reliability, and allow our Street Lighting Division to optimize their operations planning,” stated Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge. “We’re excited this initiative will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and serve as an important component of Mayor Wu’s Green New Deal.”  

Phase I of the program completed energy conservation measures at 14 municipal sites including community centers, libraries, parks, and police and fire stations across the city. Phase II is nearly complete and includes $20 million of energy conservation measures for 31 City-owned buildings. Renew Boston Trust uses performance contracts that ensure the City’s Capital Budget allocations are repaid by the energy savings. 

This announcement exemplifies the Wu administration’s commitment to a Green New Deal and retrofitting municipal properties to align with the City’s carbon neutrality goals. Mayor Wu’s FY23 Budget includes investments that further support these objectives, including $20 million of ARPA funding towards deep energy retrofits for affordable housing, $2.5 million of ARPA funds to electrify Boston Public School buses, and $2.5 million of Capital funding for a Climate Ready Streets initiative to support green infrastructure. Additionally, Mayor Wu recently filed legislation to give Boston the local option to set building standards eliminating the use of fossil fuels for new developments and major renovations in Boston.

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