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Salt Lake among 10 U.S. Cities to cut climate pollution from buildings

Published January 29, 2014 4:25 pm

Energy use • More than 70 percent of the city's carbon emissions come from structures.
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Buildings are responsible for 74 percent of Salt Lake City's carbon emissions and much of the energy needed to heat and cool them is wasted, according to Mayor Ralph Becker.

Wednesday, Becker announced that Salt Lake City is joining with nine other U.S. cities in the "City Energy Project." The initiative is aimed at targeting the largest source of energy use and climate pollution within cities — large buildings.

The project, headed up by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation, seeks to dramatically reduce energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings. Some $9 million in private funding will allow each of the participating cities to produce its own plan of action.

Already, the Becker Administration has begun to formulate a cleaner building plan through "Sustainable Salt Lake — Plan 2015" that will begin to be implemented next year.

An initial step, according to Becker spokesman Art Raymond, is to perform an energy-use analysis of all large buildings in Salt Lake City to determine how each one can be made more efficient.

Building tune-ups are not necessarily expensive, said Laurie Kerr, director of the City Energy Project. Such upgrades are believed to pay for themselves in energy savings in a relatively short period of time, she said.

In the formal announcement of the national program Wednesday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said that while each city will create its own "customized" plan to boost building efficiencies and reduce pollution, the municipalities also would compare information on what works and what doesn't.

"We're going to share ideas and use each other's ideas," he said.

One of the roadblocks to building efficiency has been property owners' lack of awareness of inefficiencies and how to connect those owners with lenders for upgrades, said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. City governments "can make that connection better," he said.

The City Energy Project could save some $50 million annually in Salt Lake City, according to the program organizer's projections. And would cut emissions equal to the carbon footprint of 25,000 homes per year.

csmart@sltrib.com