New grant to improve energy efficiency in The District

Sunday, September 4, 2011 | 5:58 p.m. CDT; updated 1:08 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 8, 2011
Sidney Stretz, one of the the managers of Main Squeeze, a natural food cafe, gets ready for the day on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. Wheat grass (front left) is high in chlorophyll, a substance that helps build and repair red blood cells. Main Squeeze is one of the restaurants that applied for the City Green: The District award.

COLUMBIA — Businesses in The District have a chance to tap a federal grant program to reduce energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The city of Columbia obtained a $285,547 grant called “City Green: The District" through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Showcase Communities program.

Apartments, churches, parking garages and restaurants among others are eligible for the grants. Ruth Walker, one of the four owners of Bluestem Missouri Crafts, plans to apply. She is especially interested in changing the 88 heat-producing halogen light bulbs in her shop to light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs. They use less power and don't fade textiles. The grant is important, she said, because LED bulbs are expensive, but she believes she'll save a lot of money over time.

Elliot Dill, the manager of Main Squeez, said he would like to have a more sustainable restaurant. He was taken aback by findings in an initial inspection.

“We were surprised about the energy loss,” he said.

The city's Office of Sustainability and the Water and Light Department are working together on the program. Sustainability manager Barbara Buffaloe said the grants will save both the city and the businesses money.

“Every amount saved on the electrical bill is also saved on having produced that electricity so then it reduces how many greenhouse gas emissions are into the atmosphere, so it's a domino effect,” Buffaloe said.

The Environmental Protection Agency hopes the program nationwide will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 448 metric tons annually. Columbia Energy Services supervisor Frank Cunningham said that's feasible. He noted that in Columbia alone there are 107 participants thus far. He hopes 20 to 30 buildings will proceed through the required energy audits to complete the entire program.

“Our grant has a good potential to make a difference for the businesses downtown Columbia,” Cunningham said.

Businesses outside downtown can apply for similar assistance through the Water and Light Department's Commercial Lighting Incentive Program.

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Ruth Walker September 8, 2011 | 12:41 p.m.

Bluestem Missouri Crafts is very pleased with the quality of the light emitted from the l.e.d. bulbs, relieved at the reduction in electricity costs (and heat!), and grateful to have help in making the change.

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