Do’s and Don’ts of Successful Alternative Energy Projects (American Planning Assoc. Chicago 2014)


May 2014

This afternoon panel discussion presented how three different industry “mover and shakers” of the Chicago metro area developed success in alternative energy projects. Success implied cost effectiveness and energy efficiency for residents, commerce, and industry. Emerging alternatives and innovative strategies were challenged with case studies presented per panel speaker. Challenges targeted lessons to learn in finding available funding from federal and local governments.

Presenter one: Rosa Y. Ortiz, AICP, LEED AP, Program Officer, Enterprise Community Partners: Her firm oversees initiatives and projects directed at bringing natural resources to the Chicago metro area, via affordable housing. In the presentation, she emphasized the “people” side of sustainability.

This perspective emphasizes the behavior approach to energy conservation. A case study presented was CNEC: Chicago Neighborhood Energy Challenge sponsored by the City of Chicago. This project involves 7 residential properties, 14 buildings, 503 units, and over 700 people.

Workshops, interactive websites were forms of community involvement that programmed the project together. Data was gathered on gas, electric, and water usage per building. Results were drawn out.

Lessons learned were certain buildings were engaged and some were not. Some had a polite relationship and others had a camaraderie relationship. (Statistics given) Font size, literacy levels and language were to be of concern. 

Focus to be exerted on connecting with natural resources and securing a budget. 

Interests to be concerned with gatherings, special needs, cheat sheets, literacy rates, first language, child friendly meetings, and the ability to connect with resources due to limited upbringing. Length of activity to accommodate all was another concern. 

Organizing this project according to scale of the neighborhood or buildings was to be of concern as well. Green charrettes and grants were conducted. A Green community certificate according to the Enterprise criteria was established. Other engagement resources were carried out. 

Presenter two: Craig Schuttenberg, PE MBA, Vice President, Energy Choices, PC:  He founded his own consulting firm which helps large commercial customers in the metro area to be more conscious with energy use. The firm expanded to support social justice while balancing with energy and economic incentives.

Municipal aggregation supersedes energy savings. Statistics were presented of energy savings for ComEd from year 2013 to present. The result per his consulting firm concluded in introducing the usage of CFL’s (light bulbs).  The idea of CFL’s represents an analogy of 275 cars taken off the road for 7 years. The expected life of CFL’s is much lower. However, due to the short life expectancy, the challenge is when disposing since the product contains mercury.

According to the consultant, food pantry programs can accept disposed CFL’s.

A case study presented led to a result of zero sum game, meaning no net savings for residents of a community. Aggregate community savings came from ComEd’s residential customers in non-aggregate communities.  Wealth transfer went from non to aggregate.

There was pervasive incentive for customers using more electricity than ComEd supply in larger homes. The more affluent used more aggregated. Basically, no savings from aggregated. No benefit to local economy for those who are paid customers. The aggregation was a public policy failure. The question still stands: How to even the score to help power communities that spend all aggregated savings? 

Presenter three: Kevin Dick, LEED AP, Project Manager, Delta Institute: This presenter manages the firm’s green building portfolio including LEED certified projects. He introduces his presentation by using the state of Illinois as a case study. Kevin asks the question, how does energy status quo impact residents? Our status quo includes nuclear energy, solar generation, and the fact that our state is #36 ranked in cheap energy.  To answer the question, we have missed opportunities in financial, environmental, and home value benefits. Social fabric of community energy is included as well.

Comparing Chicago to Philly and Boston, our city has challenges in comfort, savings and code compliances (federal). History compliances, safety, and utility incentives.

Via Delta workings, since their mission is disrupt, catalyze, and transform, Kevin collaborated research results and brought to us the benefits of alternative methods. An EV car would involve no maintenance, a 3 year lease would cost 354$, 200$/monthly for gas, a 50% state rebate, 1000$ federal credit, and codes would comply a garage connector to charge the vehicle.

Another alternative for energy savings would be solar PV. Clean. increase value for MLS listings, and reduce grid stress on the smart grid.  The challenge would be to teach politicians about alternative retrofitting methods, as well as fire and building policies. Proactive measures would create a revenue model for other cities to follow as well as more code compliance allowability for green methods.

He can be found on


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