POSTED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2010:
A Timely Synergy
Sustainability plan could work hand-in-hand with PLANiTULSA
Light Bulb! “I think we’ll be in a good position to save a lot of money on energy” once the plan is received, Fidler said. “It will raise a lot of awareness among elected officials.”
Tulsa's recently created Office of Sustainability has issued a request for proposals seeking responses from firms interested in helping the city develop a comprehensive, long-term sustainability plan.
Brett Fidler, director of the department that was created on March 3 via an executive order signed by Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr., said the RFP was issued on Oct. 22, and already his office has heard inquiries from a number of firms around the country, though it has yet to receive any formal proposals.
The budget for the project is approximately $320,000 he said. The money will come from the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy. The city was awarded $3.8 million in EECBG money earlier this year.
The purpose of the plan, according to the RFP, is to identify opportunities for the city to save money and resources, reduce its environmental impact, improve air quality, promote a green economy, provide sustainability education and outreach to citizens and businesses, guide decision making and policy making, and help Tulsa become a regional leader in sustainable government.
The RFP states that the plan should outline methods to assist the city in reaching such goals as reducing energy consumption citywide by at least 25 percent, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent, obtaining 10 percent of energy from renewable sources, and developing a plan to increase alternative fuel vehicles to 20 percent of the total city fleet -- all by December 2012.
Fidler said those levels were not arrived at arbitrarily -- most are the recommendations of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the DOE, he said. He also said it was important to remember they are just goals.
"Those are the starting points," he said. "We wanted to give people a starting point for what we want to do and give interested firms an idea of where we're heading."
But none of those levels carries the weight of city ordinance or executive order, he noted.
"The plan is exactly that -- strictly a plan," he said. "There's no implementation phase. We want a document that tells us what to do to reach our goals in the next three to five years. And if we continue along this road for the next 10 to 20 years, we want to know where we can expect to be at that time."
The RFP also seeks a firm that can help identify potential new funding for sustainability activities and help develop and submit applications for that funding, as well as make recommendations for the future structure of the Office of Sustainability.
It also requires a breakdown of all costs necessary to perform the scope of the work.
Fidler said there is a growing number of firms that provide such services these days, though few of them are located in Oklahoma. Most of the companies he has heard from thus far are located in Texas, California or on the East Coast, though he said some architectural and engineering firms in Tulsa have added those services to their list of offerings in recent years.
The deadline for proposals is Nov. 17, and Fidler said he hopes to have a firm chosen before Thanksgiving. He also hopes to have a contract agreed upon and executed by the middle of December, meaning that, ideally, the firm chosen to develop the plan could get to work on it before Christmas.
"The firms that I've spoken to, I've told them I'd love to have the plan in 90 days (from the time the contract is signed)," he said. "That may be a little aggressive, but I think it would be reasonable to expect to have it within 120 to 160 days."
Fidler's office was created specifically to help the city reduce its energy consumption and cut costs, and that's what the director has been doing since late winter. But he expects the plan to provide him with a number of ideas or suggestions he hasn't considered yet.
"I hope so," he said. "That's kind of the idea. This RFP is kind of different than what the city typically sends out, where we outline exactly what we want. In this case, we want firms to be more creative, to use their expertise and advise us of best practices and bring all that to us. We want to put in a plan tailored to what we need, not one that's based on somebody else's plan."
Fidler hopes that one positive side effect of the creation of the plan will be that it brings more credibility to the sustainability practices his department already has implemented in city government.
"I think it helps to have an independent third party verify some of this," he said.
Fidler also views the creation of the plan as a natural complement to two other recent city initiatives -- the adoption of the PLANiTULSA comprehensive plan update and the KPMG study devoted to reducing or eliminating unnecessary or duplicative city services.
"I think we'll be in a good position to save a lot of money on energy" once the plan is received, Fidler said. "It will raise a lot of awareness among elected officials and groups in the region about what we're trying to do, what sustainability is and how we're trying to move in that direction."
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