Energy usage is an important topic among home and business owners in Baltimore City as the temperatures outside begin to decline and energy -related costs begin to rise. Efforts to reduce energy consumption and related costs and increase education through outreach have prompted the Department of General Services in partnership with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability to award monetary grants through the Community Energy Savers Grant program to 44 local non-profit organizations. The grants, divided into three categories, will cover assistance with energy audits, upgrades and retrofits to increase energy efficiency, and education and outreach for energy savings.

Funding came from a $6.37 million federal energy stimulus package awarded to DGS in an effort to help the city achieve one of its goals in a multi-pronged sustainability plan. As a part of the plan, Baltimore City seeks to reduce its energy use and green house gas emissions by 15 percent by 2015. These grants will help to make that goal a reality.

“With this funding, non-profit organizations throughout the city will have an opportunity to learn about low-cost and no-cost steps that can bring about additional energy savings,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake during the announcement of the grant recipients. City officials hope that money saved will allow the non-profits that received awards to “provide increased services to the Baltimoreans they serve.”

In 2009, 100 households in Reservoir Hill community participated in the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy challenge that led to an 11.2 percent reduction in energy costs. According to Teddy Krolik, a member of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, the non-profit will receive about $41,000 to support an expanded public education campaign in partnership with New Lens, an art and media organization run by youth involved in social change.

The goal, wrote Krolik in an email to the AFRO “is to increase energy conservation behaviors in Reservoir Hill residents, leading to a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption in Reservoir Hill.”

The grant will fill in where BNEC left off. “During the past year, BNEC devoted significant personnel resources to communities, particularly Reservoir Hill, to support achieving these goals,” said Krolik. “Going forward, however, BNEC will not be able to provide the same level of support and resources as in 2009, making it imperative that Reservoir Hill establish a long-term approach to energy conservation if we wish to maintain Reservoir Hill’s current momentum.”

Project Lightbulb, a program run by Civic Works, was an integral part of the success of BNEC in Reservoir Hill and will be able to continue to do so in other neighborhoods like Belair-Edison and Waverly thanks to the $20,000 grant the non-profit received. Project Lightbulb provides city residents with free replacement energy efficient light bulbs, low flow shower heads and low flow faucet aerators. Earl Millett, community development director for Civic Works, said the grant will also allow the organization to hire two employees to help coordinate their outreach efforts.

One of the largest awards went to the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition for a $46,000 type two grant. Jeff Thompson, deputy director, said the money will be used for upgrades and retrofits to increase energy efficiency at a building owned by the organization at 901 N. Milton St. “We plan to upgrade the HVAC system, insulation, replace old light bulbs with high efficiency bulbs, and install solar shades,” said Thompson. “There are some pretty large windows than can drain a lot of energy. There are about 60 of them on one side of the building, so the solar shades will go a long way to help cut costs.”

The building, which Thompson said was renovated to historic standards, currently provides office space for several non-profits and training programs in the area. Uses vary from continuing education classes in the construction trade through Baltimore City Community College to a commercial kitchen operated by Moveable Feast; a meal delivery program for AIDS and cancer victims and their families. “That building houses six or seven different entities and provides them with below market rent. But everybody shares in the operating costs, so the energy savings that this grant will help us to provide will be a huge win for everybody,” he said.

Two additional rounds of grants will be awarded from the $1 million allocated by the city to the program. Applications are due by Dec. 8 and March 23, 2011.

Melissa Jones

Special to the AFRO