Envision Charlotte is Making the Queen City a Green City

Kristen Coracini | November 1, 2011

Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, nicknamed the “Queen City” after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen-consort of King George III (okay, I’ll admit that I had to look that up).  I grew up nearby and over the years, I’ve watched in awe as the city has grown both upward, with high-rises housing the corporate headquarters of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, and outward, as the suburbs expand to accommodate the ever-growing population. 

Today, efforts are underway to make the Queen City a green city, as part of a major sustainability initiative announced last year.  Envision Charlotte was launched in September 2010 as part of the Clinton Global Initiative; partners include Duke Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, the City of Charlotte, and many other corporate citizens.  This unique public-private partnership comprises volunteers from 28 different organizations, including EDF, that have come together to make Charlotte the most sustainable urban core in the nation.  The program focuses on four pillars to achieve this goal:

  1. energy efficiency,
  2. air quality,
  3. water reduction, and
  4. waste reduction. 

Last week, my colleague Michael Regan and I attended a public event in Uptown Charlotte to celebrate the installation of interactive displays, provided by Cisco, in almost 70 buildings.  These displays show how much energy is being consumed at any given moment in the city’s center, and provide tips on how to reduce that load.  The idea is to provide information to building workers and visitors on what they as individuals and collectively can do to use energy more wisely, and at no cost. 

It’s estimated that simple behavior changes, like turning off lights and computer monitors when not in use, can reduce 5% of the energy being used in the participating buildings. 

That’s impressive, but the overall energy goal for Envision Charlotte is more ambitious: to reduce energy by 20% in five years.  And that will require investments in building energy management systems, smart grid technologies and aggressive education efforts.  Making these investments will ultimately allow companies to save money by reducing what they spend on energy. 

And making these energy-saving improvements will save money for taxpayers too, since several local government buildings are participating in Envision Charlotte. 

EDF has contributed to this effort, by providing two Climate Corps fellows to Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is located) this summer to identify low- and no-cost energy savings in county-owned buildings.  In reviewing three buildings, they found measures that could save the county more than $500,000 in five years. Imagine the impact of identifying and implementing similar energy efficiency measures in all city and county owned buildings! 

EDF will continue working with Envision Charlotte to make the energy savings goal a reality.  I have served for the past year on the Envision Charlotte steering committee, which is now a board of directors for the newly created non-profit entity.  And we will document the actions taken so that they can be replicated in other communities around the country.  Stay tuned!