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Pandemic, efficiency work are helping to make some state buildings greener

Ryan Caron King

More than two dozen executive branch agencies have noted combined progress on cutting water use, curbing electricity costs and reducing gasoline consumed in the course of state business.

State officials said a combination of efficiency upgrades and pandemic-influenced factors are driving many of the changes making state buildings more environmentally friendly.

In 2019, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order calling on the executive branch to “lead by example” and cut energy use and costs for taxpayers.

A recent report tracking implementation of that order by 29 executive branch agencies and 11 voluntary state agency participants said water consumption has declined by 7% and utility expenditures have fallen 15% by about $15.5 million since fiscal year 2019.

Gasoline use in state vehicles also dropped nearly 20% over that time frame for the group tracked.

In a statement, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the progress was attributable to efficiency projects, building divestment “and virtualization of activities.”

In 2021, the report says, the state Executive Branch reduced its carbon footprint by vacating two Hartford office buildings totaling over 150,000 square feet.

State officials said the green progress was “also likely influenced by occupational and behavioral changes associated with the pandemic.”

As a result, the report says the state is also exploring ways to take advantage of “teleworking, where possible,” in an effort to “allow State employees a greater ability to reduce their commutes and associated fuel use.”

DEEP also cited exterior and interior LED lighting upgrades at several state buildings that contributed to “a 12% decline in electricity usage from a FY19 baseline,” according to an agency spokesperson.

The agency also noted energy efficiency upgrades to cut costs for electricity and heating at state buildings, “including HVAC upgrades, which helped contribute to an 8% reduction in natural gas usage.”

Data tracking the state’s progress toward reducing its energy and emissions footprints are available here.

Copyright 2022 Connecticut Public Radio. To see more, visit Connecticut Public Radio.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at WNPR. He covers science and the environment. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.