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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Billings becomes first city in Montana to earn national certification for energy efficient operations

By Rob Rogers Billings Gazette

BILLINGS – Billings’ efforts to create energy efficient and sustainable buildings were recognized by a national group this week, becoming the first city in the state to earn the certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded Billings with the LEED for Cities Gold Certification, the world’s most widely used green building rating system. Billings is the first city in Montana to receive the designation.

Billings has long worked to make its operations more energy efficient, sustainable and cost effective, according to the city.

In order to earn LEED for Cities certification, Billings had to show existing projects and strategies across the city that are aimed at improving sustainability and the standard of living for residents. The certification program is designed to help cities manage their performance across natural systems, energy emissions, transportation and land use, water, waste and quality of life categories.

Historically, Billings has implemented 168 energy efficiency projects, estimated to save 9.4 million kilowatt hours per year, equal to about $815,448 in annual electric cost savings based on current electric rates.

These efforts included 143 lighting projects, electric equipment upgrades, Variable Frequency Drives and other special projects that received $1,222,416 in NorthWestern Energy E+ Program incentives.

“Transforming our cities to be more sustainable happens structure by structure, block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood,” said Peter Templeton, president and CEO, USGBC. “Billings understands the value of LEED, and through certification is setting goals and deploying strategies that are appropriate for their local environment and residents. Each new LEED certification is one step closer to revolutionizing the places where we live, learn, work and play.”

The work to earn LEED certification began in 2019 when the Billings City Council created the Energy & Conservation Commission, composed of seven residents with backgrounds in energy or conservation.

The ECC is tasked with examining the city’s energy and water usage and developing strategies for conservation, recycling, alternate fuels, alternate transportation, alternate energy sources, and buildings that are more energy efficient.

“The effort to become certified by the LEED for Cities program involved extensive research and documentation,” the commission wrote in a statement. “It also revealed the tremendous efforts by city staff and department leadership over the last ten years to implement innovative projects to make the city more energy and resource efficient and sustainable. All this was done while saving costs and being good stewards of city resources.”

Billings is the 21st city globally to be Gold certified. Currently, more than 300 cities and communities around the world are committed to tracking sustainability progress through the LEED for Cities and Communities program at USGBC.