The city of Claremont is known for its charm, community and
colleges. As of late, the city has been striving to add ‘conservation’ to
that list by joining the competition to win the Georgetown University Energy
Prize (GUEP). GUEP is a national competition that “challenges towns, cities,
and counties to rethink their energy use, and implement creative strategies to
increase efficiency,” according to its website. The
competition, which currently includes 50 cities, began on New Year’s Day of 2015
and will continue through 2016. The winner will receive a $5 million prize.
Freeman Allen, Claremont resident and founder of Sustainability Claremont, applied for GUEP last year on behalf of Claremont after obtaining
support from the city. Allen described the application process as having been
“We had to have concurrence from the city that they would go along
with this; we had to have a letter from the mayor,” Allen said. “We had
to have agreement from the gas company and the electric company that they would
provide data … They’re large bureaucracies and you have to deal with the
right people in order to get them to do this, but they have agreed to do it.”
Jenna Perelman SC ’16 is the 5C student coordinator for the
project and an intern at the Roberts Environmental Center, a 5C resource based
at Claremont McKenna College. She said that the center helped Allen
and Sustainability Claremont through the application process, giving them
feedback on their application.
“After Claremont was accepted, they came back and asked for more
students to get involved, so we organized a team that was especially for the
Claremont Energy Challenge,” Perelman said.
Allen said that participation in the competition has
consisted of three measures: quantifiable energy reduction in residences,
municipally-supported facilities and K-12 schools, and development of a
replicable and innovative strategy for energy reduction.
“The criteria for awarding the prize is only 25 percent based on
our actual energy reduction,” Allen said. “The remaining 75 percent is for things like
innovation, how replicable what you do will be for other cities, how scaleable
it is, how creative you are and other things of that sort. We here in
Claremont are very much engaged in projects which we feel are innovative and
can be replicated.”
The official strategy Claremont is using in its participation in
GUEP is the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP), which was initially
created by Sustainability Claremont before the competition. Allen described the project as “looking into trying to encourage homeowners here to have their
homes retrofitted in an energy-conscious fashion.”
Retrofits include changes like improving wall insulation, sealing household leaks and installing high-efficiency heating and cooling
Allen believes that CHERP, which so far has retrofitted 251 homes,
was a good strategy because it has already proved successful in towns outside
of Claremont as well.
“The state of California has spent hundreds of thousands of
dollars trying to get cities to do this, and we’ve been more successful than
just about anybody with an entirely volunteer-run operation,” he said. “There’s a lot of innovation there. Those things give us hope that we will prevail.”
Perelman said that the coordination of CHERP and other efforts has
in part been made possible by 5C students’ efforts, resulting in an exponential growth of the project’s impact since about two months ago. These efforts have included planning events, following
up on pledges, organizing launch events, analyzing geological data, writing grants, marketing through social media and
distributing yard signs.
One of those students is Isabella Levin SC ’17, who has been
involved in event planning and student organization. Levin said that regardless
of the result of the competition, this experience serves as a valuable
opportunity for students and Claremont residents alike.
“It’s really great to see students getting involved and
interacting with community members,” she said. “Students have been really
helpful, people have really gotten involved, and I think it’s a great
opportunity for those who are interested in environmental analysis, through
their major or an interest in sustainability in general. This puts what
they’re learning into action.”