Energy planning investigates issues centered on the use and delivery of energy in the community; identifies how these issues intersect with land use patterns and transportation choices; and forms strategies to improve the efficiency of energy use in the community. Energy planning at the local level becomes the convergence of planning for many other issues, including playing a large role in quality building standards; emergency management planning (since most community–wide emergency events involve the disruption of power delivery); facility cost and fiscal projections; air quality; and land use.

With an award from the Duke Class Benefit Fund, OKI produced Community Strategic Energy Plans for eight local communities in southwest Ohio from 2017 through 2020. The eight communities: the Village of Cleves, Colerain Township, Middletown, the Village of Silverton, Delhi Township, Harlan Township, North College Hill, and Turtlecreek Township have all prepared energy plans in partnership with OKI. Although generally based on content from the US Department of Energy’s guide on producing a local energy plan, OKI worked with each local government to tailor each plan to their situation.  Each plan addressed a range of energy-related topics, included multiple avenues of public input, and included an energy audit of local government facilities.

Ways this project benefits the local Community and the Region:

  • Developed eight locally-driven community energy plans to serve as examples for other communities to follow.
  • Builds awareness of how energy affects local communities and ties into traditional community planning topics like transportation, housing, economic development, and natural systems
  • Develops a knowledge base, data, and indicators that can be used to understand energy impacts throughout the region
  • Provided funds to kick-start the implementation of the plans
  • Builds stronger awareness of local priorities regarding energy, which is expected to lead to further local and regional activity on energy issues

After completing each plan, OKI then made $15,000 available to that community to begin implementation of their plan.  These grants, which ended up totaling over $132,000, were leveraged into a half-million-dollar investment in energy efficiency benefitting these eight communities.  The communities made energy-efficient improvements to their facilities, added electric vehicles to their fleets, replaced antiquated streetlights with LED fixtures, and planted trees in areas suffering from urban heat islands.  These improvements reduced energy consumption and emissions equivalent to reducing traffic by a million vehicle miles each year.

This project developed a much better understanding of something that is currently lacking from the discussion of energy issues — which are local community priorities. We have come to understand that things work better when our regional transportation priorities and local land use priorities are mutually aligned. The same holds true for our energy policies and infrastructure. It is essential that we develop a locally-driven set of energy priorities and are able to effectively communicate those to everyone involved in the energy field. Technologies and regulations are changing rapidly. As a region, we need to develop a voice in that conversation — and that voice starts at the local community level.