Energy policy for Rockford

A rationale for the City of Rockford to become aggressively involved in the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy—part 1

A worldwide energy transition is under way that could meet 20 percent of the world’s electrical needs by 2020 and half of its primary energy needs by 2050. Such a transition is both possible and desirable for Rockford.

Funding could be raised on a tax-free basis by issuing municipal revenue bonds, which would be paid by savings from reduced utility bills. With economic benefits accruing from energy savings, this would be a wise investment for Rockford. All of these measures can involve the use of local installers and equipment suppliers lifting local employment.

The major driving forces for this transition include the following:

Environmental damage—Recognition of the environmental damages resulting from our conventional energy sources dominated by fossil fuels is growing. Changing weather patterns attributed to global warming are having a financial impact as insurance rates rise to account for increased storm damage. Water and waste water systems face increased risk from water shortages and heavier downpours.

Supply disruptions—Vulnerability to supply disruptions from natural events, market manipulations, equipment failures, human error, and terrorist actions with increased energy imports is growing. By using energy more efficiently and producing more energy locally, local energy security is enhanced.

Adequate and economic energy supply—A community should ensure that it has both an adequate and competitively priced energy supply to meet its needs. Using energy efficiently and making appropriate use of renewable energy sources can help ensure these objectives for Rockford. Retaining more energy dollars in the community increases job opportunities and provides funds for other community investments. Save energy money and use it elsewhere.

Dwindling global supplies and rising costs of oil and natural gas—Increased international competition for these declining resources raises the specter of costly, ongoing military conflicts to control energy supplies. Increasing local energy independence provides some protection from rising energy costs.

A transition to increased energy independence will take time and effort. Strategies and technologies for a gradual transition to a renewable energy system are well established and economically viable. They require generating the political will to implement appropriate policies to achieve the many benefits available to the community. The technologies and their cost effectiveness will continue to improve over time. The Rockford Energy Plan (REP) needs firm goals and objectives, the political leadership to generate local support, and community financial commitment. Rockford should have a Three-20s program in place that seeks to obtain 20 percent improvements in three areas by 2015.

Three 20s

20 percent improvement in efficiency of city facilities;

20 percent of municipal electrical needs met via renewable energy sources; and

20 percent of municipal fuel needs met by renewable fuels by 2010.

The prevailing OPEC strategy is to keep oil prices within a range that maximizes their profits while undercutting efforts to reduce our reliance on imported oil. Federal energy subsidies favor conventional energy sources, which undermine local energy independence. Fortunately, numerous cost-effective options are available to reduce energy dependence and vulnerability if Rockford develops an energy plan and implements it effectively.

An energy plan for Rockford should include the following elements:

1. Efficiency

2. Bioenergy

3. Geothermal energy

4. Wind power

5. Solar energy

6. Buildings

7. Transportation

8. Behavioral change

9. Financial resources

10. Policies

From the May 11-17, 2005, issue

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