Building partnerships and engaging communities were the key themes that emerged from the second Georgetown University Energy Prize workshop held in Palo Alto, CA, and hosted by Johnson Controls.

More than 40 representatives from California communities, including Berkeley, Claremont, Davis, Fremont, Palo Alto, San Mateo, and Sunnyvale participated in the workshop. They shared challenges and successes in trying to make their communities more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions. They discussed what’s working, what’s not, and how they’re partnering with businesses, utilities, non-profit groups, and residents to make a positive impact in their communities.

“We’re off to a tremendously successful start to the program, and it’s witnessed from the event that’s going on here,” said Francis Slakey, founder and director of the Georgetown University Energy Prize. “One of the wonderful things about the prize is that it’s encouraging cities to set really challenging goals. While we all have barriers to becoming more energy efficient, we are united in our efforts to overcome those barriers and accomplish what might seem impossible.”

Slakey noted that the 50 participating communities — from Winter Park, FL, to Fairbanks, AK, and points in between — have collectively saved more than $45 million in energy costs while competing for the $5 million prize. They have also displaced 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions — the equivalent of permanently taking one car off the road every five minutes of the competition, which began in January 2015 and runs through December 2016.

Lisa Brown, national director for local government for Johnson Controls Building Efficiency, applauded the efforts of all the communities to “green America.”

“We wanted to be part of the prize because Johnson Controls has been part of the sustainability community for over 30 years, and we take this very seriously,” Brown said. “We’re very excited that local governments, where the real work happens, are very enthusiastic and motivated to make change.”

Palo Alto is one community that’s making change happen. An energy efficiency leader since the early 1970s, Palo Alto has rolled out a new suite of energy efficiency programs, including an online portal that combines a variety of utilities — gas, electric, water, and solar. The portal allows residents to see and act on their energy use in focused, personalized ways.

“We’re making it easier, faster, and more economical for people to do the right thing in ways that contribute to the climate challenge and their own personal lives,” said Gil Friend, Palo Alto’s chief sustainability officer and the workshop’s keynote speaker. “This community is largely committed to these (sustainability) issues. Palo Altans are smart with their money and recognize a good investment when they see it. They understand that energy efficiency is one of the best investments you can make.”

For more information about the Palo Alto workshop, view a short video here: