PORTLAND — An investment of $13.3 million in energy efficiency improvements would lower the city’s total annual energy bill by 12 percent, according a consultant’s draft report on an energy audit.

The savings — which would amount to more than $1 million a year — present an “extremely beneficial economic scenario” for the city, according to Ameresco, the Framingham, Mass.-based company that completed the audit.

The city plans to borrow money for the investment and pay off the 15-year loan with the annual savings. But even after the making the annual loan payments, the city would net an additional savings of about $252,000 each year, according to the Ameresco report.

The bulk of the savings would be generated by converting heating systems of 18 buildings from oil to natural gas, installing energy efficient lights and centralizing lighting and thermal controls.

The audit ruled out the use of small-scale wind turbines on rooftops, which initially was under consideration.

City staff were scheduled to meet this morning with Ameresco officials to go over the report, a highly technical document that is 4-inches thick on double-sided paper.

The city later this year plans to give a performance contract to Ameresco, which would act as a general contractor for the project. The $150,000 cost of the audit would be rolled into the contract. If the city does not move forward on the project, it will pay Ameresco for the audit.

Ameresco, which would make a profit based on various fees, would guarantee the energy savings to the city.

Also at the meeting will be Matt Pesce, an energy expert from the South Carolina-based Facilities Strategies Group. The city brought Pesce in to analyze the audit and make sure that the investments recommended by Ameresco will lead to the promised energy savings.

“It’s very important to have a person here do this,” said Ian Houseal, who started work this month as the city’s first sustainability coordinator. “Amerisco knows their businesses. The other side is making sure we know our business.”

Portland now spends about $8 million a year to heat and light its buildings.

Ameresco recommends that the city make improvements to 51 buildings. The buildings that require the biggest investments are City Hall, the Public Safety building and the Barron Center.

The report recommends changing thousands of 32 watt florescent light bulbs to 28 watt bulbs in buildings throughout the city.

Ameresco recommends that the city spend $700,000 to convert oil heating systems to natural gas. That would save about $390,000 a year and pay for itself in just under two years.

Another recommendation calls for $990,000 to upgrade boilers and replace heating controls, producing annual savings of $180,000.

Other improvements include adding pipe insulation, solar water heaters, new windows and new roofs and tightening building envelopes.

The federal government has given the city $684,000 for energy improvements. Some of that money will be used to pay for consulting fees and also Houseal’s $50,000 annual salary for three years. About $400,000 would be used toward paying off the 15-year-loan.

Houseal, who will oversee the project, said he hopes the City Council will approve a contract with Ameresco this summer.

He said it will take 16 to 24 months to implement the energy improvements.

“I think we need to get this done as quickly as possible and make sure the quality is excellent,” Houseal said.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at

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