May 21, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
In 1999 the Wisconsin Legislature created Focus on Energy to provide energy efficiency and renewable energy resources for residences, business, and state and local government organizations. Focus isn't a state agency, but a nonprofit that provides technical expertise, training and education for vendors and its customers.
"Our emphasis is to help customers implement projects that otherwise would not be completed or to complete projects sooner than scheduled," said Amanda Wollin, marketing manager of Focus on Energy. "Our efforts help Wisconsin businesses manage rising energy costs, protect the environment and control the state's growing demand for electricity and natural gas."
Wollin said Focus provides energy assessments for organizations and helps them find reputable vendors and service providers to implement energy efficiency programs. "One way of helping is to look at their information technology systems, which includes everything from the actual computers and workstations to their servers and the different IT infrastructure," she said.
To be part of the reputable vendor list, program representatives educate the vendors on Focus's energy efficient programs, services and incentives. For an organization to be eligible to participate with Focus, it must be served by a participating utility company in Wisconsin. However, Wollin said nearly all of the state's utilities participate in the program.
Focus on Energy offers incentives for installing qualified systems, like PC energy management controls, from participating vendors like Kaseya. Wollin said the program offers an incentive of $6 for every computer the energy management software is installed on, but through Aug. 30 the amount is doubled to $12 per computer.
About three years ago, Madison installed power management software on its entire fleet of desktop computers, according to Rich Beadles, data center manager for the city. He said the city's 1,600 computers are managed from a central location in order to save energy. The city used a vendor from Focus on Energy's reputable list and reached its ROI for the project in less than two years.
Beadles said the initial investment was around $20,000, and he estimated that the city saved $14,000 in energy the first year.
"We're doing a lot of projects throughout the city where we're trying to build sustainability into everything we do," Beadles said. "So we're reducing the amount of energy the city consumes and trying to set the example that way. I think that was the No. 1 thing we got out of it: a reduction in electricity, reducing fluorocarbons and all the side effects that come from that."
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.