March 9, 2009

Pinellas County Leading the Way for Energy Conservation

Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

As energy costs climb and greenhouse gas emissions from power production are linked to climate change, governments are motivated to put policies in place that can have powerful impacts financially and environmentally. Pinellas County government, the first green local government certified in the state of Florida, took energy reduction seriously with the implementation of an Energy and Water Management Policy. The policy was put into place in January, 2008 with a goal to reduce electrical consumption by 18% and water consumption by 10% over the next 6 years. The County’s Real Estate Management Department concentrated efforts on reducing electrical consumption at all county-owned buildings with the exception of the Detention Facilities (due to unique operations requirements). For 2008, countywide electrical consumption was reduced by 2,539,283 KWh. This equates to an 18.95% in comparison to the mean of 2006 & 2007. Paul Sacco, Real Estate Management Director, said “this reduction is the combined result of the policy implementation, energy conservation projects and some moderate ambient temperatures in spring and early summer.”

So what are the policies that have helped make this such a big success? Almost 1000 occupancy sensors were installed in offices and meeting rooms to turn off lights automatically when there is no movement in the space. If you sit quietly the lights may turn off automatically but a quick movement turns them back on. These are a very simple and inexpensive ways. Each unit costs $55 to purchase and install. Progress Energy offers a $10-20 rebate per unit as part of their ‘Save the Watts’ program. Thermostats have been reset to policy requirements for heating and cooling. A couple of degrees energy change can make a big impact and dressing correctly in offices for either warm or cool days will become a standard. When buildings are shut down in the evenings or weekends, cooling and heating is reduced even further. Each employee is responsible to switch off computers, monitors and printers at the end of each day. Lighting, copiers, faxes and coffee pots are switched off in work areas when not in use. Investing in Energy Star certified products and looking at retrofits and Green Building (LEED) certifications for buildings are also part of the program.

This reduction in energy not only saves money but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions created from burning fossil fuels (coal) for power production. Greenhouse gas emissions are linked to climate change, which is of growing concern globally. Carbon dioxide and other gases build up in the atmosphere, which scientists now believe is causing changes in rainfall, temperature, and sea level. Impacts include increased flooding, movement of pests and diseases to new areas as global temperatures increase, and greater incidences of droughts, floods, forest fires and severe weather events.

For more information on saving energy and what you can do, contact Pinellas County Extension or Pinellas County Utilities or go to or

Resources from the University of Florida:
Keeping It Safe: Energy Conservation =More Money
Energy Efficiency in the Home
Energy Efficient Home Series

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