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Minnesota mayor plans to invest in energy conservation

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson unveiled plans Wednesday to invest $500,000 to improve the city's energy efficiency. If those plans are approved by the Duluth City Council, the money will be used to convert more city lighting to LED and tackle a variet...

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Duluth Mayor Emily Larson unveiled plans Wednesday to invest $500,000 to improve the city's energy efficiency.

If those plans are approved by the Duluth City Council, the money will be used to convert more city lighting to LED and tackle a variety of projects with an anticipated payback period of five years or less, said Erik Birkeland, Duluth's property and facilities manager. He referred to the upgrades as "low-hanging fruit."

Larson said funding for the conservation measures will come from a surplus in the city's budget last year. Although final figures are not yet available, she expressed confidence that surplus will exceed $1.3 million.

Last week, Larson directed $800,000 from the same surplus to beef up city road improvements in 2016.

If approved by the council, the energy conservation funds will be placed in a dedicated energy fund.

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"Conservatively, our staff estimates that we will save $100,000 per year - a savings that will be returned right back into the energy fund to be reinvested in other components of our city energy plan. That means that over the next six years, we will make energy conservation investments in excess of $1 million," Larson said.

She predicted the investment will pay for itself twice in the next decade. Larson said the improvements should result in the city receiving additional rebates from Minnesota Power and Comfort Systems, as well.

"Today, the city of Duluth steps up and we step forward and we lead by being invested in our own long-term municipal energy plan. We demonstrate that we have both the will and the capacity to be energy leaders in our region and throughout the state," Larson said.

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