Many large organizations in metropolitan areas often have the internal resources to identify and invest in energy reduction. However, small, especially rural communities across the United States, such as those within the SEDA-COG region, often lack the internal resources to design and implement these energy saving programs. As a result, smaller communities often unnecessarily spend more on energy than larger communities and are losing economic resiliency as rising energy costs erode their budgets. To counteract this, the Energy Resource Center at SEDA-COG helps rural communities reduce their energy costs and gain prosperity with the savings they retain by fosteringThe Energy Resource Center provides energy conservation and renewable energy education, training and technical assistance to residents, local businesses, hospitals, building trades, non-profits agencies and schools throughout the SEDA-COG eleven-county region. Our projects seek to foster the generation, on-site use and local ownership of renewable energy within our region. As energy costs continue to rise and most renewable energy programs are targeted toward metropolitan areas, rural economies across the United States, such as those within the SEDA-COG region, are at a disadvantage. The ERC helps rural communities reduce their energy costs and gain prosperity with the savings they retain. InBy doing so, SEDA-COG is able to help these communities can increase the economic parity between themselves and Pennsylvania’s cities.
The ERC has completed a wide array of energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy projects both within the SEDA-COG region and throughout the surrounding area. The various locations and projects undertaken can be viewed at this map. We place a heavy focus on completing utility bill analysis for local municipal governments, through which they are able to track their energy use, determine specific areas where they can reduce consumption and form the habit of tracking their energy use in the future. This tool for energy conservation has been widely popular across our region and has even prompted many communities to have an energy audit completed and to also implement energy-saving retrofits to that further reducee their consumption.
Once energy consumption is reduced, we are also active in begin promoting the use of efficient and renewable energy. In 2011, funding provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission allowed the Energy Resource Center to provide an energy audit to Loyalsock Township, which recommended that a photovoltaic solar array be installed on the southern-oriented rooftop of the Loyalsock Township Building. ARC funding and Act 129 rebates allowed Loyalsock to purchase the 15.75 kW array at 75% its original cost., and Tthe array will is expected to generate a projected $140,000 over its lifespan. In projects such as these, the ERC plays a vital role in pulling resources together from multiple organizations in order to accomplish a project that may otherwise be unmanageable.
The most notable of the Energy Resource Center’s projects is New Berlin’s Community-Wide Energy Independence project. From 2009 to 2012, New Berlin Borough, in partnership with the Energy Resource Center, worked to reduce its energy consumption across commercial, nonprofit, industrial and residential sectors. The 2011 NADO Innovation Award-winning project achieved a documented 10% energy savings across the community, with the average participant achieving a 22% reduction in consumption. Altogether, the borough will reach a projected $1 million savings in the first five years following the project’s conclusion, demonstrating the effectiveness of a collective approach to energy reduction as a tool for economic development. The resulting 2014 NADO Innovation-Award winning how-to guide, Energizing Small Communities: A Guide to Greater Energy Independence and Economic Resiliency, which outlines the process behind New Berlin’s project, was created as an adaptable blueprint for small communities across Pennsylvania and beyond to partake in with their own community-wide energy independence projects. The Boroughs of Millheim and Selinsgrove are the first to replicate the success of this approach, with many other local communities gaining interest in undertaking the project in the near future.