Md. town launches an ef­fort to con­serve

Uni­ver­sity Park will be a case study for bet­ter en­ergy ef­fi­ciency

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY OVETTA WIG­GINS wig­ginsovetta@wash­post.com

A crisp win­ter af­ter­noon with tem­per­a­tures in the mid-20s was the per­fect day for Dick Nor­man to talk heat and en­ergy.

“My house is on the drafty side, so this is very timely,” Nor­man said as he stood in the mid­dle of the Uni­ver­sity Park Ele­men­tary School gym­na­sium Satur­day af­ter­noon with a stack of brochures from com­pa­nies show­ing him how to make his home en­ergy ef­fi­cient.

Nor­man was among about 80 res­i­dents who par­tic­i­pated in the launch of the town’s Se­quen­tial, Trans­for­ma­tive En­ergy Pro­gram for Uni­ver­sity Park (STEP-UP!), a com­mu­nity-wide ef­fort to con­serve en­ergy.

The goal of the three-year pro­gram is to im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in 30 per­cent of the homes in the tree-lined com­mu­nity filled with brick colo­nials dat­ing to the 1930s.

STEP-UP! plans a low-in­ter­est loan pro­gram for res­i­dents and — with town coun­cil ap­proval — wants to in­vest in other projects, such as so­lar en­ergy on a pub­lic build­ing, ef­fi­cient street­lights, trans­porta­tion ini­tia­tives and com­post­ing.

The town will track its progress and of­fer its ex­pe­ri­ence as a case study for small towns across the coun­try.

The pro­gram qual­i­fied for $1.4 mil­lion in fed­eral stim­u­lus funds.

Uni­ver­sity Park was one of only 20 ju­ris­dic­tions in the coun­try that re­ceived the money from the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy to im­ple­ment pro­grams that will re­duce en­ergy use by homes, ve­hi­cles and busi­nesses. Uni­ver­sity Park was one of the small­est ju­ris­dic­tions, and the only one in Mary­land.

“It says a great deal about the peo­ple who put this pro­posal to­gether,” said Mayor John Ta­bori, not­ing the grass-roots ef­fort that led to the award. “We fell off our chairs when we learned we won the project.”

Chuck Wil­son, who brought the idea be­fore the town coun­cil, said he thinks that oth­ers will learn from Uni­ver­sity Park’s ef­fort.

“ There are dozens of towns like this across the United States that are small and run by vol­un­teers,” Wil­son said. “ This is de­signed to work with those.”

Par­tic­i­pants at Satur­day’s work­shop learned about en­ergy au­dits and talked to en­ergy ef­fi­ciency spe­cial­ists about their work.

Some sched­uled ap­point­ments. Oth­ers signed up to speak with the town’s newly hired “en­ergy coach,” who will help res­i­dents in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about con­serv­ing en­ergy.

“I want to do what I can to help the en­vi­ron­ment,” Karen Son­dak said. “I want to know what that is, whether it’s chang­ing the in­stal­la­tion or putting so­lar col­lec­tors on the roof.”

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