FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2022
The City of Charlottesville realized reduced utility usage and spending during fiscal year 2021 primarily due to severely reduced building occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - The City of Charlottesville tracks utility usage and associated costs at nearly 70 municipal sites, including government and school facilities, as part of its Energy and Water Management Program. The most recent annual Energy and Water Performance Report for fiscal year 2021 (FY2021) indicates significantly lower levels from previous years, primarily due to major changes in building occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City provides an update on the City’s utility performance as well as efficiency improvements and efforts focused on outreach and engagement.
The City of Charlottesville’s Energy and Water Management Program (EWMP) carefully monitors and manages energy and water usage of the City’s municipal sites which include both the local government and the public school facilities. This work supports the Charlottesville community-wide climate action goals (45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050) by identifying and taking actions to improve efficiency, reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The EWMP tracks utility usage at these facilities to gauge performance and report on budget impacts, coordinates on building operations and improvement projects including renewable energy opportunities, and engages with staff, faculty, and students to help lessen their impact on energy and water usage. Building on the comprehensive energy and water performance baseline presented in the fiscal year 2020 report, this report outlines actions and the energy and water performance of over 70 municipal sites in the 2021 fiscal year (July 2020 – June 2021).
One of the key results presented in the report is the reduced spending and associated emissions across all utilities in FY2021. These results were largely influenced by the vacant or significantly reduced occupancy of the facilities in response to COVID-19 risk management (remote learning and teleworking) and related reductions in equipment operations. When compared to the portfolio’s baseline year of 2015, there was a 15% decline in electricity usage, 19% decline in natural gas usage, and 25% decline in water usage (Figure 1). Since 2011, the City’s portfolio has seen a slight downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions that is influenced by the transformation of the electric grid, changes in operations, and projects incorporating efficiency measures. This trend was abnormally influenced in the past year by COVID-19 and efforts are underway to account for this influence. “When occupancy begins to return to pre-COVID levels, it’s likely that we will see an increase in energy use, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kirk Vizzier, the City’s Energy Management Coordinator.
The report also discusses actions associated with the City’s building operations, technology improvements, and behavior changes. The City was able to improve communications around City facility schedules that reduced run times of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems when the buildings were not in use. The EWMP is working on an energy savings performance contract to potentially upgrade building equipment for over 40 of the City’s facilities (including school buildings) (LINK). Educating the people that use City facilities of their behaviors is important to supporting efficient performance, and the EWMP has continued their partnership with Charlottesville City Schools (LINK) to put out quarterly educational outreach to students and staff on how they can save energy and water at school.
Read the full City FY2021 Energy and Water Performance Report (PDF) and the Report’s Executive Summary (PDF).
Figure 1: Total municipal utility spending for the past 7 years for each commodity type. The yellow dotted line is the overall trend in spending over time across all 7 years.
Data from the FY2021 Energy and Water Performance Report can be viewed on an interactive dashboard (Link).
For more information on the City’s Energy and Water Management Program, go to the EWMP website: Charlottesville.gov/EnergyWater or contact the Energy and Water Management Team at EnergyWaterTeam@charlottesville.gov.
Deputy Director of Communications & Public Engagement
City of Charlottesville