New 'Powering Pittsfield' Seeks to Reduce Energy Use

By Joe DurwinSpecial to iBerkshires
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Mayor James Ruberto announced a partnership program that will connect businesses to energy efficiency experts.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city of Pittsfield on Tuesday unveiled a broad new initiative, dubbed "Powering Pittsfield," at a press conference held at City Hall. A parallel, partnered initiative in the city of Northampton was announced in that city an hour earlier at a press conference at Thorne's Market.

The Powering Pittsfield Program aims to help businesses and homeowners take advantage of various possibilities for improving energy efficiency in their properties, through coordination of utility companies with local government and the Center for EcoTechnology.

Working closely with CET, which also has a presence in Northampton, the program will provide what it calls a "concierge service" to connect as many participants as possible with beneficial energy-saving options. CET will provide a free inspection, looking for energy-saving opportunities and connecting participants with the most appropriate options, including a variety of new incentive programs and commercial rebates offered through local utility companies Berkshire Gas and Western Mass Electric Co., as well as cost-effective retrofitting and replacement possibilities.

At the press conference, Mayor James Ruberto emphasized the commitments that both Northampton and Pittsfield have made in recent years to create greener, more energy-efficient communities.

The latter, over the preceding four years, has managed to reduce energy use by its own city government and departments by 20 percent. This new program aims to duplicate those results across the entire city, including commercial and residential, by 2020.

"We all know conserving energy is important," said Ruberto, "it's environmentally important; from a cost perspective it's critical we do it; and from a jobs perspective, we have to recognize that energy-efficiency and all of that work truly does help the local and national economy."

Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins, who attended the Pittsfield presentation, also strongly emphasized this point. "There's a lot of reasons to do this, but one of the reasons most important to me is that it keeps the dollars in our own communities."

Higgins, who will leave office in just three days, pointed out that $6.5 million had already been invested in increasing energy efficiency in her city, "and we're saving right away from that investment."

Joe Laroche, speaking on behalf of Berkshire Medical Center, provided some specifics about the kinds of savings that had been seen by implementing new energy saving measures and technologies in their facilities. These included about $38,000 a year in savings from installing a new chilled water facility, and nearly 2 million kilowatts per year in saved energy from the use of new LED lights between the two parking garages on Park Street.

Deanna Ruffer from the city's Department of Community Development also offered estimates provided by George Whaling of Whaling Properties to demonstrate the extent of savings in energy costs that can be obtained. 

Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins said energy-efficiency was already paying off in her city.
Whaling said that after inviting Berkshire Gas and WMECo to conduct audits of the Crawford Square building, he replaced an oil-steam heating system with natural gas, installed new Thermopane windows, and upgraded rooftop units leading to a 60 percent reduction in energy costs.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, summarized the crucial need for programs and measures such as this and those being launched throughout Western Massachusetts.

"There can be a never-ending debate about where we ought to source our energy from, what the best sources are, what the cleanest sources are ... the best source of energy is energy efficiency. The most reliable source is energy efficiency. The more we can do to reduce our demand, the easier it is to figure out where to get the energy that we're going to have to use."

The program will begin with outreach efforts to businesses in the downtown corridor, as well as residential buildings. The information packet provided by the Powering Pittsfield Program includes a suggested consent form for business and residential customers of Berkshire Gas and WMECo to share information on their energy use and billing history with the program's team.

For more information on the program, or to find out about participating, visit, email, or call 413-499-9344.

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