Florida cities partner for new green energy collaborative program

08/18/11 Olivia Kabat
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Some local governments in Florida are forming partnerships to help businesses save money by lowering energy costs. These collaborative energy programs will also create new jobs.

The Greater Lake Worth and Greater Boynton Beach Chambers of Commerce along with the Town of Lantana have created the new GreenBiz Energy Collaborative Program. It gives funds to local businesses to complete eco-friendly energy projects and practice energy efficiency. Michael Wallander, the program’s project manager, is the principal with EcoCity Partners, the group leading the collaborative. He says the commercially-focused program is centered on helping businesses save money on electricity bills by offering a variety of energy finance options.

“At the outset, we’re focused on energy efficiency and those technologies that are most cost effective. This would be things like lighting upgrades, heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning, building insulation, and window fill. Eventually we’d like to see financing for rooftop solar panels or any sort of device that is going to enable that property to become more energy efficient.”

The GreenBiz Program is funded by a grant from the Florida Energy Climate Commission. EcoCity Partners, with a team of non-profits, will create the renewable energy financing program.

“The up-front cost of creating the program comes from a grant, the funding for that came from stimulus funds that were issued by the Department of Energy. So what the grant will do is see the initial creation of the program but eventually it will be entirely sustainable on its own.”

According to Wallander, the Energy Collaborative Program will be open to any other cities and county governments in Florida who want to get involved.

“This grant and the program were always designed to be a multi-jurisdictional partnership. The town of Lantana is administering the program but the idea is to create a partnership between the town and hopefully cities and counties all over the state. We’ve already had some very strong interest from other municipalities.”

Mary Campbell, Pinellas County’s extension director, says the GreenBiz Energy Program is a wonderful way to save money and Pinellas is looking into many energy financing programs such as GreenBiz.

“There’s been a lot of excitement about these programs in the last couple of years. There’s a lot of these energy financing programs popping up and I think they're great! So it’s a great way to bring the cost of energy efficiency down and to get more people knowing about it and working on doing some of those energy conservation things. It can save people money and it’s good all the way around.”

The South Florida Town of Lantana is part of the GreenBiz Program and David Thatcher, Lantana's development services director, says it can benefit small businesses.

“This one came up and we wanted to try and get funding to help local businesses promote energy conservation and efficiency. So specifically in Lantana we’re a very small town. We have a number of small family-owned businesses that especially during these economic downturn times, are looking for every way they can to save some money, be more efficient, and do more with less…like we’re all trying to do. A lot of them have contacted us and are really interested just in what they can do to their buildings to mend their business operations. To save money is their main goal of course.”

Thatcher says the GreenBiz Program will roll out later this year and is the first of its kind in Florida.

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