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Electric slide: Four Syracuse neighborhoods to compete in Central New York Energy Challenge with goal of lowering energy costs

Four neighborhood associations in Syracuse are now competing in the Central New York Energy Challenge, an energy consumption awareness program with the goal of informing households about hidden electrical costs.

Tipperary Hill, Strathmore, Eastwood and the Northside are all vying for a chance to win a $5,000 grant through the Gifford Foundation. The grant would help the winning neighborhood reduce its carbon footprint, said Samuel Gordon, senior planner at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board. The deadline to enter the competition was last Friday.

The purpose of the program is to improve homeowners’ knowledge of electrical energy consumption and introduce the subject into casual conversations, he said.

“If you think about the way we use gasoline, we fill up our gas every few days, and every time, we know how much we’re paying per gallon, but most of us don’t pay attention to how much we’re paying per kilowatt-hour. Most people don’t even know what a kilowatt-hour is,” Gordon said. “That’s one of the intentions of this program — to help people think about how they use energy more frequently.”

Gordon added that the program has shown success in other neighborhoods, where families saved 30 percent on their energy use after participating in the challenge.

The challenge is based on a cooperative model, with each neighborhood association forming teams made up of five to eight households, he said. These teams will meet once a week for six weeks after the challenge begins. Each week, they will discuss a different issue related to electricity consumption, with the overall goal of informing homeowners about better tactics and methods to save electricity.

Each participant fills out a survey at the beginning of the challenge that measures their knowledge of electricity consumption, and will fill out an exit survey after they have completed the challenge, Gordon said. The $5,000 grant will be awarded to the neighborhood association that demonstrates the greatest improvement in awareness of its electricity consumption.

The city of Syracuse has been working with the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, which heads the challenge, since 2010, when Mayor Stephanie Miner created the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, said Andrew Maxwell, the bureau’s director. He said the two organizations share common goals and that the partnership between the two is a beneficial relationship for the city.

People in Maxwell’s office heard about the energy challenge and contacted the group to express its interested in getting the city involved in the challenge, said Gordon.

Maxwell said he is excited about the program’s results, and has full confidence in the four neighborhoods that will be competing for the grant.

“One of my goals is to increase the awareness of what individuals can do in their daily lives to reduce their energy consumption and reduce their electric bill,” Maxwell said. “I think it’s something where we’re raising awareness and educating people about simple things they can do in their lives while building communities.”

By Alfred Ng – Staff Writer
Published April 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm

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