Mayor Chris Beutler today said establishing partnerships among eastern Nebraska communities is one of the keys to achieving local energy sustainability. He cited the $10 million federal stimulus grant Lincoln and Omaha jointly received this spring to help business owners in both cities cut energy costs.
Mayor Beutler made the remarks as the luncheon speaker at the Meeting of the Minds sustainability conference which runs through Friday at the Qwest Center in Omaha. About 200 leaders from 15 countries are attending the leadership summit on building sustainable cities sponsored by the Urban Age Institute and the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities. The cities of Lincoln and Omaha are Meeting of the Minds Partners.
Beutler said the stimulus grant will "catalyze and transform" the local market for energy retrofitting. "This federal funding will help thousands of business owners save millions of dollars in energy costs in concentrated Green Zones," he said "It will also set our local markets on a course to be a model for other similar cities and regions aiming to aggressively lower energy costs and carbon emissions and move more toward a clean energy future."
Lincoln's goal, Beutler said, is to be the "green capital city of the Great Plains." In 2008, he signed an Executive Order outlining a goal to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent per capita by 2015. In 2009, he launched the "Cleaner Greener Lincoln" initiative with funding the Nebraska Attorney General's office provided from a class action lawsuit settlement.
"We are using several million dollars in energy stimulus block grant funds and local dollars to prepare and engage our local energy consumers through energy efficiency, energy retrofitting, renewable energy and conservation education programs," he said.
Beutler told conference participants that the "conservation ethic" is part of Nebraska's social, political and business culture and is reflected in the state's tree-planting heritage and its unique public power and Natural Resource District systems. The Nebraska Environmental Trust, which Beutler helped establish as a State Senator, has added initiatives on renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions to its list of funded projects.
The State Legislature recently added a requirement that local comprehensive plans include energy and conservation goals. Earlier this month the City kicked off its comprehensive plan update process, and Beutler said the goal is "to integrate sustainable development principles throughout the plan."
Beutler said Lincoln voters showed their willingness to invest now for the future in approving the Lincoln Haymarket Arena development last month. He said the project will incorporate sustainability principles including brownfield cleanup, LEED building certifications, low-energy transportation and district energy use.
"Local voters in this region are increasingly supporting of sustainable development because we have faith in our time-proven traditions of practicing environmental stewardship and conservation," Beutler said. "We know that investing in and using sustainable technology, programs and development practices makes sense for the long term."