Town to begin measuring energy use with online tool

BAR HARBOR — The town is set to begin using an online tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to track energy use in its buildings with the aim of making them more efficient.

Last week, town councilors approved a proposal from council Vice Chair Gary Friedmann to use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager system. They also set a goal of making future building construction and renovation projects “net-zero” impact.

Friedmann shared information about efforts in other Maine towns to save energy, which he said save taxpayer money and help the environment.

Energy Star is an online tool to measure and track energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Users enter information about the building, periodically input utility use and cost information. Using that data, the system offers customized recommendations for ways to increase the building’s energy efficiency.

Friedmann is one of the founders of A Climate to Thrive (ACTT), which has a goal of making Mount Desert Island energy independent by 2030. Volunteers from the group offered to do the legwork of tracking down the information needed to set up each of the town’s buildings on the Energy Star online system. A first set of recommendations could be available for consideration in the upcoming budget process.

Councilor Peter St. Germain said collecting baseline data for Conners Emerson School could be particularly helpful this budget season, as the school committee is weighing options for a new heating system.

Some councilors expressed concern about the amount of town staff time that could be needed to help the volunteers find the information. Town Manager Cornell Knight said the town could give ACTT permission up front to contact power company Emera Maine and ask for the town’s utility bills, rather than ask a town employee to be go-between.

Paul Paradis said a similar process was begun several years ago with former councilors and College of the Atlantic students, but it “fizzled out.”

“It’s an important question, whether we will remember to refer back to this data when we’re making decisions,” ACTT representative Ruth Poland said. “Because we’re an outside group, we can be there to remind you that it’s there.”

The vote was split 4-3, with Councilors Clark Stivers, Paul Paradis, Gary Friedmann and Burt Barker in favor and Matt Hochman, Anne Greenlee and Peter St. Germain opposed. The group opposed said they would prefer the “net zero” goal be tabled until the council’s goal-setting session later this fall.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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