residential

Two years of the Residential Energy Program!

Two years of the Residential Energy Program!
Energy Infographic - 2 Year of the County Residential Energy Program  

Watt’s Up with Montgomery County’s Residential Energy Program?

In 2016, the Residential Energy Program launched. After 2 years, it is well on its way to energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions!
  • 14,237 residents engaged
  • 229 events, including:
    • 25+ congregations
    • 21 libraries
    • 16 senior centers
    • 4 regional service centers
    • 10+ schools
    • 10 MANNA food distribution sites
  • 4,583 CFL + incandescent light bulbs collected + recycled = >$16,557 in energy savings for County residents
  • Quick Home Energy Checkups are energy audits offered through your utility. They are at no additional cost to you!
    • 472 County referrals for QHECs led to 135,700 kilowatt hours saved which equals the CO2 emissions of 10.9 homes for 1 year!
With more to come!

Buying green electricity for your home

Buying green electricity for your home
An important way to combat global warming is to switch our electricity supply to “green” electricity (generated from wind- and solar-powered sources, both of which do not emit carbon dioxide).

Electricity generation is the single largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.  Electricity sold by Pepco in Maryland in 2017 was generated mostly by coal (32.2%), natural gas (26.7%), and nuclear (35.9%) – with only 2.8% from wind and solar.

Scientists tell us we need to switch to clean electricity without delay.  By buying electricity from wind and solar power, and/or by supporting community solar power projects, you are helping support the stronger U.S. green electricity industry essential for that transition.

 

How to buy green electricity without installing solar panels


The following information is focused on helping residents of Montgomery County, who cannot install (or prefer not to install) rooftop solar, buy green electricity.  You can make the switch to green energy by:

  • purchasing electricity with renewable energy certificates from wind and solar facilities; OR
  • supporting the development of solar power in Maryland by being part of a community solar project.


 

Option 1: Green-e Certified Suppliers of Renewable Electricity

Many suppliers offer green electricity for purchase by Montgomery County residents, but their offerings can be difficult to compare – due to differing terms, conditions, and other relevant considerations.

Green-e is the trusted global leader in clean energy certification. They make it easy for businesses and individuals to purchase verified clean energy with confidence, and for consumers to choose sustainable products and services. Green-e advocates for the advancement of clean energy policy, markets, and technology, and believes in their economic and environmental benefits. Here are the companies whom have been certified as of August 2018:

 
Supplier, Product Name, Renewable Content, and Web Address Price Considerations
CleanChoice Energy Clean 12 Month Rate Lock (99% Wind + 1% Solar) 11.60 cents/kWh CleanChoice is a local firm, a B Corporation, and is certified by the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program.  12-month contract, but you can cancel at any time, for any reason, without paying any penalty.  BBB rating = A+
AEP Energy ECO-Advantage 100% Renewable Fixed Price Offer (100% Wind) 7.99 cents/kWh AEP is a large multistate utility. 36-month contract, but you can cancel at any time, for any reason, without paying any penalty.  Only available for Pepco customers, not BG&E or Potomac Edison customers.  No MC-FACS member experience with this supplier and there are customer complaints about AEP’s Ohio affiliate on Yelp.  BBB rating = A+
WGL Energy Services 100% National Wind Power(100% Wind)   8.50 cents/kWh (12-month) 8.30 cents/kWh (24-month) IFPL’s agent, Groundswell a local renewable energy non-profit has a supply agreement with WGL Energy Services, an affiliate of Washington Gas Light. 12-month or 24-month contracts; WGL Energy’s penalty for early cancellation is $10 for each month remaining on the contract (so potentially a larger penalty for 24-month contracts).  BBB Rating = A+

What to consider in buying green electricity


Under Maryland law, you can choose a supplier for your electricity other than Pepco, BG&E, or Potomac Edison.   Your monthly electric bill will then have two parts – a smaller continuing payment to Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison (as the distributor) to maintain the electric wires in your neighborhood, and a payment for your “electric supply” that goes to the supplier you choose.

The process of signing up for a supplier is done online and is simple – you will need to consult a copy of your electrical bill to provide your current utility account number as part of the sign-up process.

The cost of green electricity is slightly higher than what Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison will charge for the “electric supply” part of your bill.  For that reason, it is important to know that the green electricity you are paying extra for is really “green.”

The EPA recommends buying green electricity from suppliers that have undergone third-party validation – in the United States, the non-profit organization that provides that independent check is Green-e.

 

Signing up


When you sign up for a green electricity option, you will sign a fixed-price contract for a specific term (typically between 1 and 3 years).  Some suppliers make you pay a penalty if you want to switch to another source of electricity before the contract term is up.  If you want the flexibility to switch based on finding a better price, then you may want to pay attention to termination fees and consider a supplier that allows easy cancellation.

There are other differences among the types of suppliers in the marketplace that may be important to you.  Some suppliers of green electricity are large multi-state utilities.  They may have lower prices for green electricity.

Others are smaller, more local firms that are explicitly organized to operate on socially responsible business principles or that have been certified for environmentally responsible business practices.  Their prices may be higher, but if you want your electricity purchase to encourage more Triple Bottom Line business (Economic, Social and Environmental), then look out for green business or B Corp logos.

If you live in Takoma Park, the City of Takoma Park has a program for purchasing green electricity for its residents that offers low rates and good environmental value.  Visit the program website.

The end of your contract


Shortly before the end of your contract, your green electricity supplier must inform you of your options, going forward:
  1. If you do nothing, some suppliers will automatically renew you for another fixed term at a different fixed rate that may be higher.
  2. They might put you on a variable rate that changes from month to month, which will likely also be higher.
  3. Others may return you to Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison as your supplier.

It is important to pay attention to your options at the end of your contract term (be it 1 year from now or 3 years from now), so that you make a choice at that point that continues to provide you with the lowest cost.

   

Option 2: Supporting Community Solar Projects


A complementary strategy to the above is to support the development of solar generation facilities in Maryland through community solar projects.   Maryland’s demonstration program allows such facilities to be built once they have signed up customers equal to the plant’s capacity.

The first PEPCO region project, to be built on a brownfield site in Prince George’s County, is now soliciting subscribers (organized by Neighborhood Sun).

Subscribers receive credits on their electricity bills that will be 5% greater than what is paid PEPCO, resulting in an overall savings.  As a legal matter, you are not buying the solar power generated by the facility itself, but you are directly incentivizing such facilities in Maryland while saving money overall.  You may be able to combine this support with buying your personal renewable energy through one of the suppliers in Option 1.

  Community Solar Organizers:


This article was prepared in June 2018 by the Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions Working Group on Clean Electricity members are: Jon Foreman, Jack Lebowitz, Joelle Novey, Bob Simon, Stuart Simon, Doneby Smith, Gary Steinberg, Nancy Wallace, Walter Weiss, and Diane Wysowski.  Data current as of June 2018.

Community Solar is now available for Marylanders

Community Solar is now available for Marylanders
Montgomery County residents finally have the chance to take part in the new Maryland community solar program and be part of the newest, most innovative solar industry development.

Community solar was initially authorized by legislation in 2015, and it took several years for projects to become available. It’s a great way for people to support new solar power generation without installing any equipment on their roofs.

How community solar works

Residents receive the same benefit as rooftop solar by subscribing to a large commercial project in the same utility area. Community solar brings the promise of solar to a much broader audience, meaning almost everyone can now be part of the solar revolution.

Community solar is available in many states across the U.S. There are several models for it, but the one most common here is the subscription model. This is where a resident (a renter or homeowner) subscribes to a nearby commercial-scale project, and gets a share of the project’s output each month. The subscribing companies typically create the share by matching the resident’s historical electricity usage. Each month, when the project produces power, Pepco puts credits on the resident’s bill to match their solar share. It’s like virtually spinning your meter backwards.

 

Current community solar projects

The Maryland program allows for only a small number of projects each year in the three-year pilot program. There are currently several active projects across the state, in BGE, Potomac Edison, Delmarva Power, and Pepco terrorities.

  • The Pepco project is called Panorama Solar and is located on an old landfill in Ft. Washington, in Prince George’s County. Anyone who is a Pepco customer can subscribe to it. The subscription is a five year deal, with a guaranteed 5% discount against Pepco’s all-in rates. The project is very large and can take about 800 subscribers.
  • For Montgomery County residents in the Potomac Edison territory, there’s the Rockdale Project, in Williamsport. It’s offering a 20 year deal, with a rate that is 17% below Potomac Edison’s all-in rate, and with a 1% annual price escalator. The project can take about 350 subscribers.


Community solar is not the same as retail electric choice. People who are in wind power contracts, or other deals with competitive electric suppliers, can also sign up for community solar. The projects in Maryland will only get built once there are enough subscribers to them. So people signing up can rest assured that they are directly bringing new local, clean energy to our state. This creates green jobs, local power production, and a cleaner environment for all of us.

By Gary Skulnik Gary is a county resident and founder of Neighborhood Sun, a Montgomery County certified green business focused on community solar. For information on how to participate in community solar, go to neighborhoodsun.solar or call 240-284-6245, or email hello@neighborhoodsun.solar

Trying to be rational in an irrational world

Trying to be rational in an irrational world
Think about the last time you went looking for a new car. What did you look for?

You probably started with your needs for the vehicle and the style of the car you wanted. You then considered the miles per gallon (mpg) of the car, looked up the crash test rating and then read online reviews from car owners about comfort and maintenance. Obviously, the sticker price is a determining factor. And finally, you probably ended up test driving the car to see what it’s like in person before buying.

 

Now, what if I told you that you must make that same vehicle purchase decision, but only based on the dimensions of the car, the features, some pictures of the interior, and the price?  Do you think you could decide on which car you would want?

You would say I am crazy and that you wouldn’t make the decision on such a pricey purchase with so little information. But, that is exactly what millions of people do when making a significantly more expensive purchase… a home.

 

A Home Comparison

Look at the two homes shown in the table below. Which one would you pay more money for? Other than a wider driveway and new siding on the home on the right, these two homes appear to be identical, so you would likely expect to pay about the same for both homes.



In fact, these two homes are one and the same, just pre- and post-retrofit!

In a rational world, you would value the home on the right significantly more. There are several key enhancements that the home on the right has that make it more valuable.

Using the car analogy, what are the mpg-like metrics for a home?

The home on the left spends $5,700/year on utilities, while the home on the right spends $1,600/year. What would you do with $4,100 more each year? Simply apply those utility savings to additional mortgage payments and you would trim years off your mortgage.

Comfort?

Just because a home has a heating/cooling system, doesn’t mean it is comfortable. The home on the left was drafty (infiltration rate of 7.1 ACH50) versus the tight home on the right (infiltration rate of 1.9 ACH50).

This resulted in significantly more space conditioning since air was lost to the outdoors. It also meant that the temperature throughout the home on the left would vary by 5°F, while the home on the right maintains temperatures within 1-2°F of the thermostat setpoint throughout the home (with the addition of upgraded HVAC as well).

How about durability and maintenance?

There are several items that separate these two homes:

  • The house on the left had issues with water intrusion at several retrofit windows that allowed water to get into the walls. The house on the right has properly installed windows and a continuous drainage plane on the exterior facade.
  • The house on the left had window A/Cs, so these need to be installed each spring and removed/stored each fall. The house on the right doesn’t have to deal with this issue.
  •  The house on the left had wood shingle siding that was in poor condition and peeling paint. The house on the right has fiber-cement siding.
  • The house on the left had to deal with oil deliveries (and volatile oil prices), the house on the right does not.
  • The house on the left lost power a couple times a year when the utility power went down. The house on the right does not (even when all the surrounding neighbors didn’t have power for several days).


Lastly, what about health?

Would you buy a car that could make you sick or had a poor safety rating? The house on the left had an issue with mice infestation. Thankfully, the house on the right no longer has this issue. After finding mice feces and dead mice everywhere in the home, the previous homeowners were contacted to see if they had health issues. All their kids asthma symptoms were minimized after they left the home.

Clearly, these two homes are not worth the same approximate value as illustrated above.

 

Make Home Buying More Rational

There are many efforts to make valuing healthy and efficient homes a more rational process. For instance, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been coordinating with the Appraisal Institute regarding green appraisals[1],[2]. Additionally, there are numerous municipalities and even entire states that are starting to include a HERS Index in MLS postings to provide an efficiency metric that can be used by buyers to compare homes.

There are many other efforts being done at an industry level, but what can you do the next time you are looking for a home?

You can learn a surprising amount by requesting utility bill data from previous homeowners and talking to surrounding neighbors. Select a home inspector that has expertise on health issues, such as pests, radon, and mold. The way to change the housing market is for the consumer to demand more.

It will take time, but it is time for us to start acting rationally when it comes to the largest purchase that most of us will make in our lifetime.

 
Blog adapted from Steven Winter Associates blog, Party Walls, and written by Srikanth Puttagunta, Principal Mechanical Engineer on May 24, 2018. For more information, swinter.com/party-walls/ Header image by iStock

Show your air conditioner a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Show your air conditioner a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Failed air conditioning on a scorching day can turn summer bliss into a sweaty nightmare.  Here are do-it-at-home tips that may help lower your utility bill, save energy and avoid costly repairs.

 

Replace dirty clogged filters

Dirty filters block airflow and reduce your system’s efficiency. When your cooling system is fighting to pull air through a dirty filter, it makes the system run longer and can increase energy use by five to 15 percent. Running the system with a dirty filter also puts a lot of stress on the entire system and can cause a costly repair. A typical filter only costs a few dollars while a new motor can run $600 – $1,200.

Changing the Filter

Evaluate

Evaluate the area around the thermostat to ensure it registers correctly. Keep lamps, televisions, or other heat sources away from the thermostat to ensure it reads the accurate room temperature.

 

Set your thermostat

Set your thermostat at 78 degrees for comfort and energy savings. A lower temperature won’t cool things faster and may result in unnecessary expense. A programmable thermostat allows you to keep your home warmer when you are away and cool it down before you return.

Set your thermostat

 

Professional service

Professional service technicians should check and maintain your system each spring. A certified professional can check your cooling system to clean the coils; check for the correct amount of refrigerant and make sure none is leaking; seal duct leakage in central air conditioning systems; maintain motors, and make sure the thermostat is working properly. This will help ensure your system doesn’t break down on a hot day. Most air conditioning equipment warranties require annual professional maintenance.

Energy Savings

Energy savings is good for the environment and for your wallet. According to PEPCO, properly installed high-efficiency heat pumps, furnaces and air conditioning units can help you save on heating and cooling costs year-round and provide more consistent temperatures and humidity control.

Air conditioning unit

 

Condensers

Condensers should be maintained to minimize dirt and debris near the condenser unit and keep it clear of bushes to allow adequate airflow. Also take care when using lawn maintenance equipment close to the wires – you don’t want to accidentally cut one.

  Outdoor Unit

 

Turn off your air conditioner when you don’t need it.



On days when temperatures are not sweltering, you may be able to stay comfortable by using ceiling fans or opening windows. This helps your wallet and saves energy.

Find out how DGS keeps our County’s 400 plus facilities comfortable and energy efficient. And view more home energy saving tips.

 
By Al Crutcher, Major Maintenance Project Manager with Montgomery County’s Department of General Services (DGS), Division of Facilities Management

Your Story: Homeowner navigates the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program

Your Story: Homeowner navigates the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program
Interested in lowering your home’s energy bill?  Take advantage of your utilities’ Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  If you are new to this program, view our recent blog on the steps to apply. Read Julia Kalloz story below for an in-depth look at the program. 

 

The cover of your Energy Audit Report



Homeowner Julia Kalloz walked us through her experience with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.

Julia lives in a Pepco service territory so she began the process by finding a contractor from the PEPCO website of specially trained, Building Performance Institute-certified contractors.

“You are able to see what certifications and experience they have and that was important to me,” Kalloz said. “It allowed me to vet several auditors and even find out what other people experienced.”

The audit cost $100 (a saving of $300) and, Kalloz said, it is easy to schedule. It took about an hour, but appointments can take a little more or less time, depending on the size of the house (most last between 2- 4 hours).

During the visit, simple and free incentives to help homeowners start saving energy immediately are provided.  The incentives include LED bulbs, water heater pipe wraps, showerheads and showerhead adapters, as well as faucet aerators and power strips.

The contractor also looked at ways to reduce air leakage from Kalloz’s home by evaluating her large appliances, conducting a blower door test to evaluate air loss and a combustion test to see how efficiently the heating system was operating.

Ten days later, Kalloz received a Prioritized List of Measurements – or a PLOM (a report detailing the improvements needed to cut home energy usage and what the potential savings could be) – that had been generated from the audit. Some of the contractor’s recommendations might not be in a homeowner’s budget, but the potential for long-term savings as well as the up to $7,500 PEPCO offers in rebates offer important incentives.

 

Getting Home Improvement Rebates

Estimated Annual Energy Savings



Once you decide which solutions are the most feasible for your home and your budget, the contractor will have you sign a proposal for the improvements and the PLOM before reserving the rebates on your behalf. Once the rebate reservation is approved, homeowners have 60 days to complete whichever improvements they choose.

For Kalloz, improvements included air sealing and insulation in the attic and basement.

After the work was  done, part two of the audit – called a Test Out – is done to determine the final energy savings and rebate. When Kalloz’ auditor did hers, a post air sealing test was done which showed less air leakage from the home.

Next, the contractor submits the application to PEPCO within 30 days of the installation and the homeowner’s rebate check arrives six to eight weeks later.

“I recommend doing the things that are affordable first,” Kalloz, who was able to get about 50% of what she spent on improvements back via the rebates, said. “Do what makes financial sense for you. Even if they are not big dollar improvements, they still make a difference and they are important.”

Even after waiting a few months once her audit was done to begin the improvement process, she said the air sealing and installation installed made a drastic difference in the drafts – and her PEPCO bill went down, too.


Written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

From energy audit to energy savings

From energy audit to energy savings
Who doesn’t dread the day the energy bill arrives?

For homeowners, the arrival of the energy bill can send blood pressure through the roof, especially if they own an older home or are on a limited income.

Thankfully, the state’s EmPOWER Maryland program helps homeowners reduce electricity consumption and save money with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

As a homeowner, it is quite easy to participate in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program:

Step 1: Call your utility supplier.

Contact Pepco, BGE or Potomac Edison, and schedule the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Audit. The cost is the same regardless of your utility at only $100 (a $400 value).  Some utilities may let  you choose your contractor.

 

Step 2: Go through the Home Energy Assessment

A certified contractor will visit your home and perform a Home Energy Assessment. They will walk through your home with diagnostic equipment to perform a comprehensive home energy audit and determine how improvements throughout your home can work together to maximize energy efficiency and savings. Some of these tests may include:
  • A blower door test that uses the combination of pressure and airflow measurements to determine your home’s air leakage, which contributes to higher energy costs.
  • Thermographic camera tests that use infrared images to assess the effectiveness of your home’s insulation, which directly affects your home’s comfort and energy efficiency performance.
  • Combustion and safety testing to detect carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
  • Verification of adequate ventilation, which is critical to reducing indoor air pollutants, moisture and odors in your home. Without proper ventilation, some household contaminants can cause health problems, while excess moisture can lead to mold growth and physical damage to your home.


 

Step 3: Receive recommended energy-savings improvements

After the audit, a home energy expert will provide you with a comprehensive report with a Prioritized List of Measures to help you determine the best improvements for your home.  It will also provide a list of available rebates.

The expert will help you identify energy efficiency improvements that may qualify you for 75 percent of the costs — or up to $7,500** — to cover energy-saving home improvements, including air sealing, duct sealing, insulation
 and HVAC equipment upgrades.

 

Step 4: Schedule the work with a participating contractor and start seeing energy and cost savings.

“I have recommended [the program] to many people because people don’t realize how much energy they are losing – especially in older homes,” Murray said. “[The contractors] walk you through what will make your home more efficient and how you can save in the long run.”

 

Seeing Results

For Kathleen Murray of Silver Spring, starting the process was mainly about making her drafty house more comfortable.

“All the houses in [my] community are mostly older and big and…we all say we are freezing to death,” she said. “So I decided to have the audit to see what changes I could make to better the heat situation in my home.”

Even after waiting a few months once her audit was done to begin the improvement process, she said the air sealing and installation installed made a drastic difference in the drafts – and her PEPCO bill went down, too.

“I have recommended [the program] to many people because people don’t realize how much energy they are losing – especially in older homes,” Murray said. “[The contractors] walk you through what will make your home more efficient and how you can save in the long run.”

  For a more detailed story on a resident’s experience with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, read this blog.


Sections of this article written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?
It is very common for Montgomery County residents to think that their only choices for an energy supplier are Pepco, Potomac Edison, or BGE. In reality you have many more options and freedom of choice.

The state of Maryland began offering their residents the power to choose their own electricity provider in 1999. With this change, comes the ability to choose your retail energy provider, all of whom attempt to offer the most competitive rates and packages for state-wide electricity consumers.

As a consumer, you can not only save on your monthly energy costs by shopping for lower rates, but you can even take advantage of green energy options, and choose to have your electricity come from renewable energy sources.

When searching for a new energy supplier, you should make sure you do your research as my family recently learned.

 
Chad's family

Chad’s Family

Lessons from a new MoCo resident

When I first found out my family and I would be moving to Montgomery County from Orlando, Florida, I knew I would miss the sunshine, but not the electric bill.  My electricity bill easily reached well over $300 per month starting in June and lasting into September; and it was not that much lower in the months before and after.

However, when I came to Maryland I discovered a benefit I had never experienced. For the first time, I would be allowed to choose my own utility company. In Florida, residents do not have the option to shop around for utility providers. Instead, one is assigned according to the current address or zip code in which one resides. You can imagine what a benefit it can be for an energy provider to have no competition.

As an energy consumer, being able to select an energy provider allowed me the ability to choose where the source of energy comes from. You can choose non-renewable sources like coal, gas, and nuclear, or renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro. I could even decide to mix and match sources or select a provider based on price and location of the company.

The pricing for my residence ranges between $0.0729 and $0.089 per kilowatt hour (kWh), which gives me a great price scope to choose what best works for me.

There were two resources I used while trying to make a decision:
  • Maryland Clean Energy  provided a clear, simple, user-friendly formatted guide to make my selections, breaking down the necessary information for me to easily understand.
  • Clearly Energy  also provided a clear, and easy way to understand where my energy costs are going and how I could save. All I had to do was put my zip code into the search engine and I could find the best rates for my home.


Now, my monthly energy bill is not only less than what I have paid in the past, but lower than I would have ever expected.  It’s amazing how the needs of the consumer are catered to in such a beneficial manner here in Montgomery County.  It certainly makes me wonder why all energy consumers nationwide are not granted the same benefits.


Chad Baisden is a new Montgomery County resident who resides in Gaithersburg with his wife and two wonderful daughters.

Gaithersburg: Partner in Energy

Gaithersburg: Partner in Energy
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the county realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words. 

This installment highlights Dyan Elizabeth Backe, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Gaithersburg.

Want to be featured as our next Partner in Energy? Send us an email!

 
My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?
Dyan Backe: My interest was first developed more broadly in the environment (before my interest more specifically in energy and climate change) … I grew up in both Florida and Maryland and spent portions of all of my summers on a lake in New Hampshire.  As a child, I was incredibly lucky to be exposed to the natural world in Florida, the mountainous regions in Virginia, and New Hampshire.

My interest in working in an environmental field developed from an appreciation of the wonders found in the natural world.

 
MGM: What do you find most interesting about energy issues in Montgomery County?
BACKE: I find energy issues fascinating due to the rapid pace of change in the industry and the role of innovation.  Our ability to problem-solve and find new solutions for energy efficiency is inspiring – and many of these developments occur quite literally in our backyard at places such as NIST and Goddard Space Flight Center.

One of Gaithersburg’s newest Environmental Affairs Committee members (Melissa Goodwin) works at the American Geophysical Union and she has already shared sustainable building practices that the AGU is incorporating into their net-zero energy redesign at the headquarters in DC.

  City of Gaithersburg Logo

MGM: Can you describe what you do in your role as Sustainability Coordinator?
BACKE: I work in the Office of the City Manager and coordinate with departments within the City on various sustainability initiatives, including energy, waste, and the tracking of greenhouse gas emissions. The City is a member of the Maryland Smart Energy Communities program and we are actively engaged in reducing our energy consumption at City facilities and in reducing the petroleum usage of the City fleet vehicles. During the upcoming year, one of the projects I will be working on is going to be exploring food waste collection and composting options for the City.

 
MGM: How does your day-to-day work impact the City of Gaithersburg?
BACKE:  I endeavor to include the lens of sustainability to the work of the City. As one person, I can realistically work on a finite number of projects at any given moment; however, there are multiple partners both within and outside of the City workforce that inform and assist with my efforts.

Internally, I work closely with the City’s Facilities team, the Stormwater Division, and with our Environmental/Forestry Planner. Externally, some of my partners include Montgomery County DEP, the Maryland Energy Administration, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, the University of Maryland’s Environmental Finance Center, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.


Photo by Bob Drzyzgula

Photo by Bob Drzyzgula



MGM: What has been your proudest moment in your position?
BACKE: I am most proud of the work that a team of us completed in updating the Environmental and Sustainability Element of the Master Plan in 2015. I am also proud for the City of our certification as a Sustainable Maryland Certified community.

 
MGM: What projects are you working on now that we should be watching?
BACKE: The City is very excited that we recently adopted Montgomery County’s benchmarking ordinance. This will enable us to encourage energy conservation on a broader scale – beyond the facilities owned by the City – and to make strides to reduce the greater community’s carbon footprint.

 
MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home or workplace?
BACKE: I am a big supporter of solar power, which I have at my home. I would love to add a geothermal system, but my lot is constrained…so that will have to wait.

 
MGM: Outside of your role, what other activities or interests do you have?
BACKE: I enjoy cooking, reading, traveling and being outdoors with my family. We like to visit Florida as often as we can and spend time on the water – fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming.

Dyan Kayaking