Did you know that Boston has been praised as a “national leader in sustainability?” Boston has been ranked 5th in the U.S. for environmental sustainability, the 2nd best city for green jobs, the top city for Cleantech companies, the #1 safest city for pedestrians and the first major city to require adherence to LEED standards. With that in mind, The Sustainable Lawyer (TSL) checked in with Mayor’s Office of Environmental and Energy Services, particularly since lawyer Jim Hunt, Chief of Environmental and Energy Services, is a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Task Force on Sustainability. The City is currently focused on providing small businesses with clean and affordable energy, and filled us in on two programs that are getting it done — Boston Buying Power and Renew Boston.
Boston Buying Power allows small to medium sized business access to more competitive energy pricing, the type of wholesale pricing that large companies receive from energy suppliers. Here’s the deal: Big companies buy more energy, so they receive more competitive pricing, long term stability rates, and the most advanced services. Because small businesses buy less energy, they buy in at market prices decided by the supplier (National Grid and N-Star) and don’t get the benefits bigger companies do. That’s where Boston Buying Power comes in. BBP is an energy buying group led by “experienced wholesale market negotiators” that will buy on behalf of the participating smaller companies. BBP has the purchasing power of hundreds of companies, which allows member businesses to receive the energy at wholesale, reduced rates.
Renew Boston began in 2009, and here’s how it worked: Using a combination of Federal Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Conservation Block Grant and existing energy efficiency programs administered by NSTAR and National Grid, the city was able to pay for 100% of air sealing, insulation and lighting on eligible homes. RISE Engineering (remember them?) provides the free audits of which 70% is paid for by NSTAR/National Grid, while the grants covered the rest. The City partnered with neighborhood organizations and stopped into corner stores and coffee shops with RISE representatives to offer the audit and corresponding savings. The program was a huge success, with more than $11.9 million dollars of energy efficiency work done saving, Boston residents and businesses $3.4 million.
As a result of this success, the City will be hitting the ground running to make a larger range of small businesses, including law firms, aware of the potential savings that RISE, NSTAR and National Grid offer to those who quality. While these companies are not eligible to for federal funds, they will still receive 70% of the cost of installation and are provided with payoff periods — the amount of time it will take for them to start saving money after the price of repairs. The City is hoping that raising awareness about the potential savings will result in more business taking the necessary steps to not only be more sustainable, but to help save money.
It’s nice to see the City not only talk the talk, but walk the walk – for companies big and small.