Measuring Before & After

You can only demonstrate a 10% reduction in energy use, if you can measure BEFORE and AFTER. Thinking about this can hurt the brain because precisely measuring the energy use of a community is next to impossible. You can't track everyone's vacation flights, for example. But relax. We're asking you to look at major categories of energy use, and make reasonable estimates, and then, after implementing your program, look back at those same numbers, and see if the needle has moved.

To win the prizes of the 10% Challenge, you need to present a credible, factually documented analysis of before/ after energy use, and successful 10% reduction in at least one arena (electricity, heating fuel, transportation). You also need to document that you reached, and meaningfully engaged, 10% of your community's households, businesses and institutions - at a minimum, getting their specific commitments, having them conduct an energy assessment and make a plan for reduction. This is every bit as important as the technical side of reducing energy use!

By building participation, you are taking the load off "the faithful," the handful of overtaxed volunteers who make your community work. You are building an informed local leadership for long-range stewardship of resources. And you are building a stronger community.

Working with the initial group of communities, and their electric utilities, planning departments, fuel suppliers, and agency experts, we have sketched out a recommended strategy for you.

1. Electricity use

Your utility can (with some work) pull together aggregate electricity use for the households, institutions, businesses and governmental users in your community. For a meaningful comparison of "before" and "after" years, the data must be adjusted for changes in population, and for variations in temperature that influence the use of electric air conditioners and heating systems. We advocate working with the technical staff at your utility to do this, and contacting Sustainable Hudson Valley if you run into challenges. You might work toward 10% reductions in electricity use through behavioral campaigns to reduce waste (timers, power strips, turn off un-used appliances) and also upgrades in appliance efficiency and lighting. Electric utilities typically have abundant free and low-cost programs to replace inefficient appliances, lighting, etc. A number of Challenge communities have purchased Kill-a-Watt meters that can be taken out by patrons, measuring the amount of electricity used by each household appliance so the big drains can be identified.

2. Heating fuel use

Your community is probably served by a small group of suppliers. Again, the best method we know is to contact them and ask for aggregate data for the households, institutions, businesses and governmental users in your community, and to work with them on adjusting the before/ after data to take population and average temperature variations into account. A straight path to 10% reduction in heating fuel use would focus on improved home air sealing, insulation, and improvements in heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems. New York's "Green Jobs, Green New York" program offers assessments to most homeowners for free, and offers low-cost loans for getting the work done, saving money right away to repay the loan.

3. Transportation

This is the toughest piece - literally a moving target. Transportation options are connected to factors somewhat beyond the control of our communities, such as where the trains and roads go, and where people find their jobs. To win the prizes in the 10% Challenge, you do not have to reduce your entire community's transportation footprint 10% - but you do have to do something creative that pushes the envelope and shows how a community can choose to change its own behavior patterns. Could you replace the oldest 10% of cars in your community with hybrids through a concerted marketing campaign working with the various dealers nearby? Could you get the 10% of your people who commute the farthest, to make some use of ride-sharing, telecommuting, or transit? Could you advocate for 10% more funding toward mass transit and/or bikeways for your community? Could you come up with some other cool transportation innovation that nobody else has thought of?

4. Household by household

The 10% Challenge has a unique chemistry because it works from two "sides," top-down through the leadership of government, schools, businesses and civic associations; and grassroots, with participating households involving their friends and neighbors and spreading action through social networks. To move the community quickly beyond talk into clear action, we recommend working with some voluntary group of households - say the Hot 100 early adopters - as a sample group who are willing to measure their before/ after energy use, make a commitment to specific changes, and document results. This group can then reach out through their social networks to involve many more, to achieve the 10% participation goal. The Red Hook pilot team found a way to make this fun through Energy Plan House Parties. Give it a try.

Sustainable Hudson Valley is working closely with the Focus on Local Government program of the New York State Research and Development Authority, to offer technical assistance, educational materials, and hand-holding to communities as they deal with the technical aspects of the Challenge. We also recommend a short list of tools for measurement.