Catholic News Service: Catholic Energies looks to help church organizations go green

...Catholic Energies was developed to complement the Catholic Climate Covenant's education and advocacy work. Dan Last, Catholic Energies chief operating office, said the program emerged in 2016 from hundreds of conversations with pastors, parish staff members and organizational leaders about the need for practical steps on behalf of the environment.

Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations operate an estimated 70,000 buildings, most of which use energy inefficiently, wasting about $1 billion a year, Last told CNS. Reducing energy usage by 25 percent in those buildings would save $630 million and 8.7 billion tons of coal, according to an estimate he prepared.

"Forty percent of energy use is wasted. The obvious place to go for maximum impact is to reduce energy consumption in facilities where people spend the most time. Then there are environmental benefits, less waste, less carbon, especially as most energy is produced by carbon sources," said Last, who has worked in energy conservation for eight years.

Along the way, Catholic campuses can be a model of energy efficiency, he added.

The program involves working with local utility companies and energy providers to benchmark energy use, assess buildings and utilize programs an incentives to realize immediate savings. An organization wishing to take the next step and retrofit equipment, windows and lighting can enter a financing arrangement under which the money saved on energy bills is used pay back any borrowed money.

The program also will help entities determine how best to install solar panels or boost the use of energy from renewable sources, such as wind and biomass, which means getting energy from burning wood and other organic matter.

Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, said the program was developed in response to the pope's encyclical and offers people a chance to find ways in their lives "to live more simply and in keeping with the resources of a finite planet."

"People would rather do something positive than just hear negative news all the time. I think that's particularly true with climate change," Misleh told CNS. "People want to be able to do something about it and we're providing the opportunity at the parish and school levels, and perhaps at universities and hospitals, to do something about it."

The companies working under the program have been vetted by Catholic Energies, allowing building operators to know that the work will be done by certified contractors, Misleh added.

"We feel they're (parishes) probably being inundated with proposals. We've done a lot of the legwork ahead of time, he said...