EC Cleveland Launches RENEW, Promising Greener Buildings, High-Road Jobs in Seven Hills, Ohio
City Hall and three other public facilities in the City of Seven Hills, Ohio, will be greener and less costly to run, and an estimated 40 Cuyahoga County residents will enjoy career-path jobs, thanks to nearly $2 million in financing facilitated by RENEW (Retrofits for ENergy Efficiency Works), launched June 23 by Emerald Cities Cleveland. Construction is set to begin in late July. (See video greeting sent to launch event by Sen. Sherrod Brown - D-Ohio)
RENEW is a public-private partnership among EC Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, Public Finance and Energy Advisors and Spectrum Energy Concepts. The program leverages Cleveland’s community benefits agreement and works with community- and union-based training programs to secure apprenticeships for local workers. One of its primary goals – as with all projects of EC Cleveland, its sister programs in nine other U.S. cities and the Emerald Cities Collaborative nationally – is to provide career paths in the burgeoning green building sector for people of color, who have historically been excluded from such opportunities.
In Seven Hills, the energy- and money-saving upgrades to City Hall will include a white roof with double-sided solar panels, new heating and cooling systems and LED lighting. The city’s recreation center, service garage and fire department will also receive energy efficiency upgrades.
County Sustainability Initiative Announced
At the RENEW press event, Cuyahoga County Councilperson and Sustainability Committee Chair Sunny Simon announced her proposal for the county to create a Department of Sustainability and a new energy investment loan program.
“I think we have a prime opportunity to be cutting edge in Cuyahoga County,” she commented, adding, “We need to see what we can do to create jobs."
Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks – the only Ohio appointee to the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience – told the gathering, “We are looking for you to tell us how we can reduce federal barriers to climate change resilience.” Noting that Seven Hills is leading by example and that “we cannot afford to turn back the clock on renewable energy,” Brooks said, “What you are doing now will make all the difference moving forward.” She asked, “Did you know that [in Ohio] we have more jobs in renewable energy than in the coal industry?” Observing that there is a seven to one return on investment in clean air, Brooks said, “Our children and the next generation deserve air that they can breathe easily.”
Serving the Public and Community
The Construction Employers Association of Cleveland’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Education Glen Shumate said, “What’s great about RENEW is that it serves the public, it serves the community.”
Mayor Richard Dell’Aquila said Seven Hills needs to find new ways to attract investment for infrastructure development, and that “it has to be a team effort.” He continued, “We are finding ways to share efforts, expenses and expertise, and we are very excited for this opportunity. I’m happy that Seven Hills will serve as a model for these kinds of projects.”
Nicole Sitka, director of energy services for the Council of Small Enterprises, noted rising energy prices – “three cents [per kilowatt hour] since last summer” – and the importance of “an integrated approach to energy efficiency” by a community of partners. “Our role is to help maximize all the resources available to municipalities,” she said.
Public Finance and Energy Advisors’ Managing Director and RENEW Program Manager Eric Small called RENEW “a catalyst for change,” adding, “I think it’s important that the primary driver is sustainable savings.”
Next Step After ARRA
“We are pleased that RENEW is able to pick up where the $5.7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money for energy audits in Cuyahoga County left off,” said EC Cleveland Director Shanelle Smith. “True to the EC mission, RENEW will bring high-road jobs, economic development, energy savings and environmental and health benefits to the City of Seven Hills and its residents.”
RENEW provides financing, technical and project support for building owners to perform energy-saving upgrades. Financing support is provided through an independent financial advisor registered with the MSRB/SEC.
Smith added, “There is no up-front cost associated with the technical assistance that RENEW provides, due to funding from EC Cleveland’s national umbrella group, the Emerald Cities Collaborative, the Generation Foundation, the Northeast Ohio Energy Alliance and the Joyce Foundation.”