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Cincinnati Non-profits Getting Help Saving Energy

May 14, 2010 - 11:32am

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The congregation at Mt. Washington United Methodist Church is working hard to protect the Earth and cut costs, something the Rev. Rick Riggs believes would get a nod of approval from a higher power.

“We’re like most churches — we’re limited in our resources,” the pastor says. “We should be careful in how we spend money, do it wisely and be good stewards.”

Through a program sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, the church can accomplish its goals of reducing energy costs and shrinking its carbon footprint. GCEA provides energy-efficiency services to residences and nonprofits in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the organization as a sub-recipient of a $100,000 grant through the city of Cincinnati that will allow GCEA to help the city’s nonprofit organizations lower their energy-related costs.

Mt. Washington is one nonprofit that was recently energy audited, and their report identified how to save energy by using more-efficient lighting, a programmable master thermostat and better insulation around windows and doors to prevent heating and cooling from escaping.

“We aren’t going to implement them all, of course, because we’re a church with a limited budget,” Rick says. “The light bulb replacements and the thermostat are the two big ones we’re looking at.”

The church is evaluating investment costs and payback periods before making a final decision about retrofits. The building currently has about 20 thermostats in various rooms, Rick says, so one programmable master control could prevent people from “tinkering,” which helps save energy.

Though Rick has not had a conversation with his congregation yet about energy efficiency, he believes it would be a good thing to do. The biggest challenge he faces, though, is finding the resources for energy improvements.

“Local nonprofits should be able to use their scarce funding to support their mission,” Andy Holzhauser, executive director for the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, says. “And every dollar we can help them save on their energy bills is another dollar that goes into their programs.”

The work in energy efficiency by GCEA and other area groups contributes to the city’s Green Cincinnati Action Plan, which aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 8 percent by 2012 with the additional benefits of creating green jobs, conserving scarce natural resources, saving money, enhancing the local economy and improving air quality and public health. The 10 pilot nonprofits GCEA is working with in its first round of energy assessments include four religious groups, one school, three theaters and two museums. GCEA was also recently awarded a $17 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help reduce energy bills for area homeowners through building retrofits as part of the Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative under the Recovery Act.

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