FORT WORTH — Already part of the national Better Buildings Initiative, Fort Worth has been chosen as one of 15 local governments across the country to improve energy-saving opportunities through performance contracting.Performance contracting uses the savings resulting from low cost, energy efficient initiatives to pay for the improvements, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Economic Development. In 2012, Fort Worth committed to reducing energy usage by 20 percent by 2020, and Councilman Joel Burns said this effort is just one way the city is trying to reach that goal. Burns and Sam Steele, administrator of sustainable programs for the city, traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to participate in a conference for the program, learning how to encourage performance contracting in Fort Worth. Burns said he plans to bring up the initiative at the next meeting of the economic development and housing committee, which he chairs, and he said he hopes to get neighborhoods involved, too. Steele said the program is also used to build a network with other partners of the Department of Energy, which runs the program. We want to share the successes we had locally and learn from others who are doing this kind of stuff, too, Steele said. The Better Buildings Initiative was created in 2011 by President Barack Obama to make commercial and industrial buildings more efficient and to accelerate private sector investment in energy efficiency. Industrial buildings used 50 percent of the energy in the United States last year, costing the country over $400 billion. Sam Gunderson, conservation specialist with the city, said Fort Worth hopes to have its Better Buildings initiative completely up and running by mid-2014. The city will use local partners and allies who have committed to the program, such as the Fort Wort Museum of Science and History, Lockheed Martin and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to take on the improvements. The process will include an audit of the business. Then an advisory committee will form recommendations for improvements that the business owners can undertake, some of which might be simple solutions like efficient lighting, Gunderson said. He said officials have not yet tracked Fort Worths energy reductions, but hope to have that figure by mid-2014.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst