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Looking to the future of the Phoenix Light Rail Corridor, Arizona’s most promising emerging economic opportunity region, Energize Phoenix has been launched by the City of Phoenix, the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU and Arizona Public Service Company (APS). It will transform the corridor’s neighborhoods and commercial districts along a 10-mile stretch of the light rail line into a Green Rail Corridor that will become a model of energy efficiency and sustainability.
The corridor spans diverse neighborhoods of communities, commercial businesses, public institutions and offices. Much of the area, however, consists of aging homes and commercial buildings and a large percentage of households are below the poverty line.
Through an innovative strategy supported by a mix of public and private funding, Energize Phoenix is designed to create 1,900 to 2,700 new jobs, most of which will be “green jobs.” These will include jobs for energy auditors, efficient-equipment installers and residential energy consultants to install electricity feedback devices that show residents how much energy they are using, and simple steps to reduce their energy use. Also included are traditional trade jobs.
This is the first major project to be implemented as part of a larger sustainability strategy for the city called “Green Phoenix,” which was designed in collaboration with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.
In addition to creating thousands of local jobs, building the Green Rail Corridor will establish novel financial mechanisms to spur energy efficient investments and cut monthly energy costs for households and businesses. At the same time, it will reduce harmful carbon emissions and improve residential and commercial buildings through energy efficient upgrades and weatherization. Most important, the project will instill a sense of pride in the community and create a model of energy efficiency and long-term sustainability adaptable to major cities elsewhere.
These resources will be used to achieve specific goals – shrink home energy consumption by 30 percent, reduce commercial energy use by 18 percent, eliminate carbon emissions by 50,000 metric tons per year, retrofit 3,500 homes and 30 million square feet of office and industrial space for greater energy efficiency, and advance energy efficiency as the option of choice for the local community.
Strategic partnerships among the three primary partners will link city management and operations with university research and utility energy delivery and measurement to achieve results.
“The City of Phoenix has a history of cooperation and success in partnering with ASU and APS,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “These strong relationships have engendered trust and cooperation among team members, so we can rely on each other to fulfill our commitments. This project will effectively move Phoenix closer to its goal of carbon-neutrality and becoming one of the most sustainable cities in the country.”
“ASU’s strengths in sustainability and renewable energy span the gamut from cutting-edge theoretical, such as our research to create jet fuel from algae, to on-the-ground transformative projects, such as Energize Phoenix,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “It is another example of the great public benefit that is derived from the partnership of ASU with the City of Phoenix.”
Rob Melnick, executive dean of ASU’s Global Institute for Sustainability and the university’s leader of the project, added:
“We are applying a unique strategy for achieving energy efficiency that combines market-based incentives, new technology and consumer education. This project will provide direct, real time feedback to consumers about their energy consumption, offer access to financing for commercial properties and energy service companies performing energy retrofits, and collect timely data on progress so we can monitor and improve our approach almost instantly. We intend to make energy efficiency a social norm for this community and demonstrate this as a model others can use around the world.”
The city will oversee management of weatherization retrofits, investment capital and worker training. Workers will be trained for “green jobs,” such as energy auditing and solar energy installation, through community colleges serving the Green Rail Corridor.
This project does not rely on regulatory mechanisms or prolonged federal investments for success. As the sole electricity provider to the Green Rail Corridor, APS will play an essential role in providing energy consumption data to the project, using energy-efficiency incentives to spur private investment, deploying a smart-metering system for energy monitoring and educating residents about how to maximize their energy savings.
In addition to being involved in applied problem-solving projects such as this, ASU conducts a wide range of renewable energy research that advances new sustainable technologies. These projects include:
A Department of Energy funded Energy Frontier Research Center devoted to advanced research on solar energy conversion; two ARPA-E projects (also DOE) – one for work on a new class of high-performance metal-air batteries and the other on photosynthetic bacteria to produce automotive fuels; development of cyanobacteria and algae as sources of environmentally friendly fuel produced by solar energy conversion; a revolutionary new environmental biotechnology called the microbial fuel cell that turns the treatment of organic wastes into a source of electricity; and development of new methods for efficiently converting water into hydrogen.
ASU also has several hands-on projects, including work on helping communities adopt renewable energy practices; a Solar Power Laboratory that explores the use of nanotechnology in next generation of solar cells; a center – one of three in the world – certified for photovoltaic module performance qualification, certification and reliability testing; campus solar installations that provide 2 MW of power (total generating capacity will be more than 10 MW by September 2010); and engineering researchers who are working to develop technology to transform the centralized power grid into a “smart grid” that can store and distribute energy produced from wind farms, solar panels, fuel cells and other renewable energy sources.
About ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability
The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The Institute advances research, education and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the US, offers transdisciplinary degree programs that advance practical solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges. For more information visit the Global Institute of Sustainability at http://sustainability.asu.edu.
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Matthew Fraser, ASU School of Sustainability, (480) 965-3489
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