Audit lays groundwork for bright energy future

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

Maui County residents are fortunate to enjoy the use of public recreational facilities such as pools, tennis courts and ballfields at relatively no cost. It has been the position of county government to recognize these facilities as a critical piece of the well-being of our community by providing outdoor physical, social, emotional and intellectual benefits to men, women and children of all ages.

Annual operating costs for county recreational facilities are covered by real property taxes. Many of these costs include maintenance necessities like labor, but there are other cost-bearing areas that if approached with smarter strategy may be able to offset expenses.

On Oct. 3, the County Council’s Parks, Recreation, Energy and Legal Affairs Committee, which I chair, received a telling update from the county’s Energy Commissioner Fred Redell, on the findings of the county’s first Energy Assessment Audit. The results presented promising opportunities to save the county money and make lasting, exponential impacts on Maui’s community.

This much-anticipated audit, called a doable “low-hanging fruit” during past energy-related committee discussions, was finally funded in the county’s fiscal year 2017 budget. Wailuku’s War Memorial Complex was chosen for the pilot audit because of its array of facilities, including two stadiums, an aquatic center, tennis courts, ball fields, gymnasium, maintenance baseyard and offices.

Conducted by two Maui-based companies, the audit revealed several opportunities to cut costs and mitigate the War Memorial Complex’ greenhouse gas emissions, including potential changes to lighting, pool filtration and heating, air conditioning and energy management systems.

The findings will serve as a baseline as we consider moving forward with recommended upgrades. For example, the complex uses an average of 862,066 kilowatt-hours of electricity, costing just over $300,000 each year. Despite decreased spending due to utility rate reductions, electricity demand increased from 2015-2016 due to greater usage than previously recorded years and is projected to increase again this year.

With an increase in energy demand, we must make efforts to reduce our electricity consumption and the costs associated with it. The audit offers tangible recommendations for how we can do so moving forward.

Recommended upgrades included a light emitting diode retrofit that could pay for itself in as little as five years. If implemented jointly with better air conditioning unit maintenance practices, the complex could result in an estimated $1,518,589.59 in savings and over 450,000 kWh in energy savings over 10 years.

Findings also included potential upgrades to reduce pool energy use. Changes as simple as a pool pump replacement combined with upgrades to the water heating system are projected to reduce War Memorial pool’s energy use by as much as 30 percent. This data provides promising projections that the Department of Parks and Recreation can apply to other aquatic facilities throughout Maui County.

Overall, the recommendations made by the audit will come with upfront costs but will save money and energy in the long-run. If used as a model, future audits and energy-efficient upgrades will propel our community closer to reaching our county and state energy goals, make positive environmental impacts, and influence energy policy and planning initiatives.

While this initial pilot audit was conducted at just one of our park facilities, I envision applying similar audits to the county’s other facilities, such as water and wastewater treatment plants, other parks and recreational facilities, and our government office complexes. We have a chance to take a huge step in the right direction for Maui County, and with community support, countywide energy audits could be the beginning of a new wave of environmentally conscious planning and smart public investment.

For more details on the Oct. 3 presentation from the Energy Commissioner and the Energy Assessment Audit, visit mauicounty.us/agendas.

* Don Guzman is the chairman of the Maui County Council’s Parks, Recreation, Energy, and Legal Affairs Committee. He holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.

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