Living Sustainably: Energy prize competition results in change for Holland

By Anne Saliers, Holland Board of Public Works

The people of Holland reduced energy consumption by 3.2 percent, to place No. 16 out of 50 cities in the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. The reduction is relative to our 2013-2014 baseline and represents roughly $500,000 reinvested in the community rather than spent on utility bills. It is equivalent to removing more than 350 homes from the grid annually.

Fargo, North Dakota, finished first in the national competition with a reduction of 6.8 percent during the two-year competition spanning 2015 and 2016.

The Georgetown University Energy Prize challenged small to medium-sized cities to rethink their energy use and to implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Holland’s leaders saw the national competition as a way to bring awareness to the Holland Community Energy Plan, and it was among the first communities to step up.

Holland’s comprehensive 40-year plan is making our community a national leader in energy security, affordability, sustainability, and efficiency, enhancing its attractiveness to investors, businesses, and residents. Adopted in 2012, the CEP calls for cutting energy use and the city’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2050.

The new Holland Energy Park power plant and a flexible balance of clean, reliable energy supply choices are key components in the plan. So is energy efficiency — the idea that, if you don’t need it, don’t use it.

So, what did competing for the Energy Prize accomplish?

    • 7,400 doors were knocked on by volunteers distributing LED light bulbs and chances to win a Nest smart thermostat.
    • 120 Nest thermostats were given away and installed in Holland homes.
    • Students created energy saving videos and conducted their own Energy Wars competition between area high schools.
    • 1,600 streetlights were converted to LED.
    • 11 municipal buildings and parks received deep energy efficiency retrofits, including new windows for City Hall and motion-sensitive LED lighting along Heinz Walkway.
    • A Prize Patrol delivered great prizes, like a new furnace or refrigerator, to lucky winners of quarterly competitions.
    • Holland received a national award for its Holland Unplugged campaign to unplug and get outside, starting the annual Movies in the Park series.

Our congratulations go to Fargo and the other competing cities that achieved energy reduction success. Holland’s community leaders will review policies and programs that other cities have implemented to see what could help move us closer to our own Community Energy Plan’s energy reduction targets.

Our mantras during the competition were ”$5 Million and Change” and “A Better House, a Better Holland.” We accomplished a great deal, including change and a better Holland.Georgetown University Energy Prize Competition

Thank you residents, and commercial and industrial customers, too, whose energy saving efforts were not included in the competition but are still critical in achieving the CEP goals.

Let’s continue our energy-saving efforts and keep up the good work.

— Anne Saliers is community energy services manager at Holland Board of Public Works and facilitates implementation of the Holland Community Energy Plan.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.