By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

Partners in The Bend Energy Challenge include:

City of Bend, Bend Park & Recreation District, Bend-La Pine Schools, Pacific Power, Central Electric Cooperative, Cascade Natural Gas, Central Oregon Builders Association and Ameri­Corps of the Corporation for National & Community Service.

Hoping to turn Bend into a city of “energy heroes” to win a national competition, City Club of Central Oregon met this week to discuss what residents and businesses can do to conserve.

Bend has advanced to the semifinal round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a contest that asks communities to rethink their energy use. There are 50 cities or counties competing for the $5 million prize to use for further conservation efforts. The winner will be announced in 2017 after two years of data is collected from all participants.

Bend’s team, “The Bend Energy Challenge,” is a collaborative project of The Environmental Center with utility companies, government agencies and community organizations.

Mike Riley, Environmental Center director, said at Thursday’s meeting at St. Charles Bend that the center wants Bendites to become “energy heroes” focused on conservation. Riley explained the prize is a great opportunity for Bend to compete with communities similar in size: Teams must represent between 5,000 and 250,000 residents.

“It’s for people like us,” said Riley, explaining that Bend would not be competing with places like Portland, but instead smaller communities such as Corvallis.

For the City Club, the theme of the day was motivating members and other Bendites in attendance to move forward with energy conservation and improve statistics over the next two years, namely reduce residential and municipal energy use by 10 percent.

Riley teased the crowd saying that Bend has long been known for its bikes, dogs and beer but that it’s time to expand beyond that; Bend should also be known for its energy conservation.

Lindsey Hardy, Bend Energy Challenge project director, gave ideas to City Club attendees on how to conserve at home. From practicing good habits such as turning off lights to conducting full-blown home renovations, Hardy highlighted that conservation also saves money, if not immediately, in the long run.

“Solar does play a role, an important role, but again, reducing energy through conservation is the focus,” Riley said, adding that the Environmental Center still hopes to see the number of homes with solar installations double.

Pat Erwert, park services director, chimed in during a table brainstorming session that Bend Park & Recreation has already modeled solar opportunity in the city, with its solar panel array at the district office at Riverbend Park. The panels, which were funded mostly with grants, were completed last August.

When speakers asked tables at Thursday’s meeting to dream of what Bend could do with the $5 million prize, Erwert admitted he’d like residents and businesses to have funds available to them as the park district did. Erwert suggested the city set up grant projects from the $5 million to encourage people to go solar. In his opinion, the most difficult part of making renovations is the startup costs. If there was a grant available to Bend residents as an incentive, he said, it may be more feasible for people from a variety of economic backgrounds.

And the point of the competition, according to Riley, is just that — to get everyone involved. The Bend Energy Challenge’s website boasts the face of Ashton Eaton, Olympic gold medalist and decathlete champion, asking residents and businesses to “take the pledge” and get involved with conserving for the competition, to become a hero, of sorts, like him.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,