News & Updates

Citywide Energy Study RFP Issued: Q&A with Travis Sheehan, BRA EcoDistricts Fellow

Jun 06, 2014

travis-(2).jpgThe BRA, in conjunction with the City of Boston's Office of Energy, Environment, and Open Spaces (EEOS) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), issued a request for proposals (RFP) for Citywide Energy Study today. 
Why is the study being performed, how will it work, and what will be done with the information? Travis Sheehan, EcoDistricts Energy Fellow, explains: 

What exactly is a Citywide Energy Study?

The City is interested in the patterns of energy demand in Boston today, and what environmental impacts those patterns may cause as we grow our city.We are hiring a consultant who will simulate and map the current energy use of every building in the city. This is will give us baseline information to work from. Additionally, the consultant will simulate and map potential clean energy supply options.

Because there is such a variety of buildings present throughout Boston, our consultant will likely create about a dozen representative building types that are frequently found in Boston, model their typical energy usage, and extrapolate what happens citywide based on that information.


Why is it being done now? 

Boston has committed to ambitious green house gas emissions reduction goals. To achieve these goals, we need to think about both energy efficiency and incorporating renewable energy technologies into our buildings and neighborhoods. Additionally, Hurricane Sandy has forced political leaders, businesses, and residents to consider how resilient their energy systems might be in the face of a major weather event. We need to improve our systems so we can "keep the lights on" for vulnerable populations and critical business operations in the event of an emergency. 
In a nutshell, we hope to learn how to make our energy supply more resilient, efficient, and sustainable in the future. 

Who is involved, and how are they working together?

The BRA is working with the City of Boston's Office of Energy and Environment as well as the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on the study. MassCEC is providing the funding for Boston's study, which will be a pilot for similar studies in other Massachusetts cities. We're excited to lead the Commonwealth in this cutting edge work!

What will be done with the information produced by the study?

The data produced by this study will provide insight into future opportunities for targeted energy efficiency as well as local energy generation. With this data, the City will be also be able to predict new pockets of energy demand, and meet that demand with policy and strategy. 
We are especially interested in incorporating energy into the community planning and development process, and using the study data to explore the idea of energy districts. In an energy district, multiple buildings share their energy generation potential, and distribute cooling and heating among the group. Think about college campuses. They're very efficient because they centralize cooling and heating. We have the opportunity to do that with commercial real estate. Energy district participants can also work together to target available energy towards critical need in the event of an emergency. 
Eventually the data produced by this study will be integrated in the City's master GIS dataset and updated annually. 

You've mentioned local renewable and clean energy supply. What are some of technologies that could be used in an energy district?

Solar photovoltaic and solar hot water, thermal and electric storage, combined heat and power systems, and thermal distribution. 

You're an EcoDistricts Fellow. What is the difference between an EcoDistrict and an energy district?

EcoDistricts are self-governed groups of decision makers who care about a range of local environmental sustainability issues and see the potential for addressing those issues at a district scale. EcoDistricts often include district energy strategies. Green infrastructure and local stormwater mitigation improvements might also be incorporated. The Washington, DC SW EcoDistrict is a good example.
Boston's Citywide Energy Study will provide context for EcoDistricts to happen around energy infrastructure. 

What's next?

We look forward to hearing from RFP respondents within the next month, and to beginning to understand the patterns of energy demand within Boston. We expect to have the study completed within the next year. 
Questions? Contact Travis Sheehan, BRA EcoDistricts Energy fellow.

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