Orlando is known world-wide as the number one tourist destination, hosting more than 50 million visitors a year, but while visitors primarily come to enjoy our year-round sunny weather, theme parks and convention facilities, we also want to be known as one of the greenest city in America.
To accomplish this, the City of Orlando and our local partners have focused our efforts in areas of sustainability including infrastructure, transportation, energy, efficient buildings, green space and smart growth.
Through these initiatives we have installed more than 150 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, partnered with car rental companies to deploy EVs, installed a 1.2 MW solar array at the convention center, and received Florida Green Lodging certification at more than 100 local hotels. More sustainable-oriented initiatives are just around the corner that will both educate visitors and make visiting Orlando a more enjoyable experience.
Creating a more sustainable future for our community not only helps us more efficiently utilize our resources and protect our environment, but also gives us a great opportunity in further diversifying our economy. Orlando residents and businesses spend more than $600 million annually on electricity. Consider the opportunity of reinvesting a growing percentage of that annual cost in energy efficiency, solar and other sustainable investments. Coupled with the associated community-based economic and environmental benefits, the results would be dramatic. Metro Orlando already boasts more than 100 clean tech firms. These are the jobs of the future that put our residents to work now and will help us attract more “green jobs.” This is precisely Orlando’s long-term energy and sustainability strategy.
The next phase of sustainability in Orlando will build our recent successes with the goal of having an even greater impact on the environment by engaging more residents and businesses in the effort. To that end, I have created the Green Works Orlando Community Action Plan taskforce made up of local business and community leaders to determine practical solutions to move the Orlando community towards a more vibrant and environmentally sustainable future. The taskforce is charged with developing a program that can yield dramatic reduction in energy consumption and dramatic increases in the use of solar energy – and to do so in a manner that is fiscally responsible and appropriately considers the economic development implications associated with such policies. Beyond energy and the economy, the taskforce will also explore opportunities as it relates to sustainable water systems, transportation, local feed, livability and solid waste.
Orlando’s future will certainly be a greener one. In the coming years, the area will witness massive investments in rail and bus rapid transit, utility and distributed solar, community solar farms, smart grid infrastructure, community-based energy efficiency financing, recycling infrastructure, and local food production. But these investments alone are just the first phase of a decades long transition from a fossil fuel economy to one reliant on clean, renewable and domestic energy sources.
By 2030, Orlando has placed a goal of becoming Net Zero Energy (NZE) for its government facilities and fleet. In the coming year, we will invest $15 million for energy efficiency improvements that generate sufficient cash flow savings to repay both the energy efficiency debt and other capital improvement projects. Our fleet maintenance facility will become our first NZE building by utilizing a 418 kw solar array. Energy studies at our waste water plant hold promise to covert our biggest energy user into our biggest energy producer.
We certainly understand the difficult task ahead, but we are committed to a more sustainability future for our community. State and federal policies will certainly assist us in achieving our desired destiny, but we will not wait. I know that together, our community can accomplish these goals together because a cleaner energy economy will help our community both environmentally and certainly economically.