DOE Grant Fuels County's Green Building Projects
Demand response is not the county's first foray into sustainability. In 2008, the county executive gathered local leaders to talk about ways to improve the county's environmental responsibility, particularly in its facilities. One of the first steps in going green was the hiring of Zappa, who now spearheads the county's sustainability program, Allegheny Green.
The county received a significant boost in its green building efforts with an $8.1 million Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The county plans to use about $5 million of those funds for its own energy-efficiency initiatives, and it will provide municipalities with grants totaling $2 million to fuel their green building efforts.
"I think people get 'nickel and dimed' to death with the immediate, urgent issue versus the ability to be strategic," Zappa says. "What I would say about the money from the DOE is, it allowed people, for a moment, to step back and say, 'Yes, it is possible for us to do these big-thinking things we've been talking about for a long time.'"
Similar to the demand-response program, Allegheny Green will require buy-in from all levels of the county to be successful. That collaboration is the driving force behind the culture shift taking place in Allegheny County.
Says La May, "There's not a single thing — from an engineering, maintenance, and capital-improvement-program perspective — that isn't touched by the goals that have been established by Allegheny Green. The culture shift is still happening."