Footprint in the Sand

Pensacola’s Energy Assessment Measures Municipal Energy Usage
by Jeremy Morrison

Pensacola’s long-awaited environmental assessment has arrived. This week, the city unveiled its baseline greenhouse gas emissions results, essentially establishing a municipal carbon footprint and becoming the first city between New Orleans and Tallahassee to produce such a report.

The assessment measures carbon output stemming from municipal facilities, public street lights and traffic signals, as well as the city’s various vehicle fleets. It did not measure energy usage associated with employee commutes or travel, solid waste generated from government activities, energy usage by contractors or life-cycle emissions associated with various city activities and supplies.

According to the assessment, Pensacola produces an annual total of 18,340.7 MTCO2e, or Metric Ton of Carbon Dioxide equivalent, a standard unit of measurement of greenhouse gas emissions. For some context, in 2016, New York City’s municipal carbon footprint was 2.71 million MTCO2e, and in 2020 the city of Bend. Ore. reported a greenhouse gas emissions inventory registering 11,223 MTCO2e

According to Pensacola’s greenhouse gas assessment, the city’s most significant source of energy usage lies in its facilities’ operations. Running municipal buildings and other facilities produces a 10,154.06 MTCO2e and accounts for a whopping 54% of the city’s total energy usage.

Next in line, accounting for 24% of the city’s usage, are municipal on-road vehicle fleets. Street and traffic lighting account for 10% of the city’s energy usage. From there, the slices of the energy-usage pie become exponentially smaller, with agriculture-related activities accounting for 2%, trailed by water and irrigation and lighting for parks, garages and ballfields, both of which are less than 0.25%. Other unspecified municipal activities collectively account for 8 percent of the city’s usage.

To reduce Pensacola’s greenhouse gas emissions, the baseline assessment report includes a few recommendations. The recommendations are aimed at both lowering energy consumption and, in the long term, energy costs. Additionally, the recommendations are being made within the context of Pensacola’s goal of producing 30 percent of its energy via renewable means by 2030.

The first recommendation involves transitioning city vehicle fleets from gas-powered to electric vehicles where applicable. Increasing energy efficiency within city facilities by retrofitting buildings with environmentally-friendly upgrades, such as LED lighting, is also advised. Finally, employing renewable energy when feasible, such as installing solar power installations on city buildings, is also recommended.

Following Sustainability Coordinator Mark Jackson’s brief overview of the city’s energy assessment report, city council members keyed in on a couple of issues, most notably the absence in the report of energy usage by municipal contractors.

“We have no way of effectively tracking what our contractors are using,” Jackson told the city council.

Councilwoman Sherri Myers pointed out that much of municipal work, such as landscaping, is performed by outside contractors.

“What percentage of our public lands are being maintained by private contractors, and what can we put in contracts to ensure this issue is being addressed,” Myers wondered.

Transitioning city vehicles was also a point of conversation. Mayor Grover Robinson noted that switching to greener vehicles — such as the city has done with some of its sanitation fleet, transitioning to compressed natural gas — wouldn’t always be a possibility either due to availability, capability or contract logistics.

“I don’t know if every vehicle we can get can be an electric vehicle or a natural gas vehicle,” Robinson said.

On that note, Pensacola Police Chief Eric Randall addressed the likelihood of transitioning the Pensacola Police Department vehicle fleet to electric. Like many environmentally-friendly investments, the chief also cautioned about an up-front “initial sticker-shock price.”

“That presents a challenge, fully electric. So, what you see now is a hybrid electric with the Ford Interceptor. That can work, and has work in several police fleets from where I came from, had several hybrid electrics,” Randall said. “But what you see in the beginning is a substantial increase in initial costs, so your cost-savings are not in the beginning; your cost-savings is five, six, seven years down the road,”

To view Pensacola’s Baseline GHC Inventory report, click here.

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1 thought on “Footprint in the Sand

  1. “Next in line, accounting for 24% of the city’s usage, are municipal on-road vehicle fleets.” I wrote the city council recommending that it next ask for a detailed follow-on briefing on city vehicle use. No one would argue with city resident PPD officers being assigned a full-time police cruiser or SUV that they would park in the driveway. That was the original intent when the city adopted what it then referred to as the “Indianapolis” plan. In the 2008 Neighborhood Leadership Academy, the head of the Fleet Management Division was asked why PPD officers were assigned full-time vehicles. We were told that it was to increase safety in city neighborhoods. Driving home my wife Yvonne whose late son-in-law had been a PPD officer asked me what was the one thing you rarely saw in a city driveway. She said, “a city police car.” When Councilman Mike Wiggins and I were quizzed by the PNJ editorial board during the mayoral race about letting PPD officers take home vehicles to places like Crestview and even Atmore and Orange Beach, he claimed that it made the vehicles last longer. I had to correct him at which point he just about had a meltdown. Not long ago, I had to go over to Hurlburt Field. I drove behind a PPD vehicle that turned into the Holley-by-the-Sea subdivision. In 2008, we were told that city police vehicles were replaced based on mileage. The city spends over a million dollars a year to patrol a city of only 22.6 square miles. That is money that cannot be spent on community centers, storm water project, new fire engines, etc. When Chip Simmons was the police chief, he changed the patrol schedule from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. I recall him later asking the city council to budget more money for fuel & lubricants presumably because the change used more vice less gas. I suggested to several council members that they may want to politely ask why the PPD was now burning more not less gas. No one wanted to ask. During a parade-of-homes week, I saw a boat parked next to a house where a PPD officer lived in Santa Rosa County. There were about 10 x 5-gallon gas cans up against the side of the house. Did he fill up at city taxpayer expense? I have seen plenty of abuses of city vehicles and described them in my letter to the city council. The most shocking was a public works vehicle idling in the Sam’s Club parking lot for more than an hour while the driver (who I recognized as a very senior city employee) took his sweet time shopping on a Friday afternoon. The city council exercises the same powers as the Florida Legislature. They don’t know it but that’s what state law says. Contrary to what Council President Moore says, eager to embrace his personal vision of a Strong Mayor-Weak City Council form of government, the city council does regulate the day-to-day operations of the city government. That is their job. The city council should adopt an ordinance that limits the assignment of full-time city vehicles to only a few to include at least the handful of PPD officers who live in the city and perhaps a few Pensacola Energy employees who are on-call to respond to emergencies in the middle of the night. In addition to saving millions, the city would do as some city kids recently scolded telling them during the recent budget hearing telling them to take action and quit jaw-jacking about what someone is going to do in 2030 or 2040 to save energy, maybe, or maybe not.

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