Carolinas Energy Planning for the Future: Local Government Toolkit

In December 2014, the South Carolina Energy Office, in collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Advanced Energy, and UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC), received a State Energy Program Competitive Award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to develop a bi-state coordinated vision for energy planning that can help meet state policy goals, support electric reliability, and comply with environmental standards. To further support the project goals, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provided funding to expand the project reach and include education and outreach.

As part of the two-year project, an air quality toolkit was created to provide resources to local governments. The goal of this toolkit is to help local officials learn about energy-specific programs and practices that can be implemented in order to improve air quality. The specific topics covered in the toolbox include: background information on electricity generation, rate setting and air quality, transportation, internal operations, funding and financing, and community programs.

Background Information

There are significant changes happening in the electric utility industry. Carolinas Generation MapThese changes will affect every resident of the Carolinas, and some will impact local governments directly. Included changes are renewable energy, electric transportation, potential changes in rate structures and a switch in electric generation sources. It is important for local governments to be familiar with these changes in order to provide guidance and education to residents.

The below links include the Carolinas Energy Planning for the Future summary document, which provides a thorough overview of energy in the Carolinas. There are also overviews of how electric rate setting works in North Carolina and South Carolina. Lastly, you will find information on air quality and details on how energy efficiency programs can impact air quality.

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According to the Energy Information Administration, transportation emissions areco2 now the leading source of carbon dioxide in the United States for the first time since 1979. Governments can greatly improve air quality by encouraging alternative transportation. These changes can include improving public transportation, carpooling and car sharing, constructing bike and walking paths, using alternative fuels in fleet vehicles and supporting electric vehicles.

The links below provide further information on the steps local governments can take to encourage a shift in transportation in order to be more sustainable and improve air quality. One example of a program that can be implemented is the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. The electric vehicles and local government document shares the benefits of charging stations, including economic development and a healthier community, and provides best practices and a case study.

Transportation is a great area for local governments to begin putting together a strategy to decrease emissions in their fleet and in their community. Alternative fuels and modes of transportation significantly decreases local air emissions and creates a healthier place for people of all ages to live, work and play.

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Internal Operations

A simple way to improve air quality is to examine opportunities in your internal operations including energy efficiency in government owned buildings, street lighting or water and waste-water treatment plants.  There are plenty of great resources to help steer you in the right direction to get started or take your existing activities to the next level.  Developing an energy component for your comprehensive plan can help create a vision for activities in your community.  Learn about other local government and community successes through the below links and case studies.

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Funding and Financing

Energy efficiency projects are a great and lasting way to improve air quality. These programs, however, can be expensive undertakings, especially if they require a lot of updates or construction. To help bring down the costs of these projects, a variety of funding options exist. Whether you are working with residential, commercial, industrial, transportation or another area, many financial options are available including grants, low-interest loans, tax incentives and utility incentives. These financial assistance programs can help your local government to implement energy efficiency measures that will improve air quality in your community. Please see the links below for more information on programs that are available at the federal and state levels.

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Community Programs

According to Energy Information Administration data, the residential and commercial sectors in the Carolinas produced a combined 6.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013. Local governments can help decrease this amount and greatly improve air quality by performing building benchmarking and supporting opportunities that promote energy efficiency in affordable housing, new and existing residential homes, schools and commercial buildings.

The resources below provide further information on the steps local governments can take to improve air quality and upgrade buildings to be more sustainable.

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The information, data, or work presented herein was funded in part by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), U.S. Department of Energy, under Award Number DE-EE0006882. The information, data,
or work presented herein was funded in part by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or
implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned
rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring
by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any age