The city of Rochester has an energy problem. In an Urban Land Institute survey of 20 cities, Rochester ranked third highest in energy use.

The Rochester Energy Commission wants to do something about that, but it lacks the resources to get the job done. So on Monday, during the Rochester City Council's committee of the whole meeting, commission representatives asked the city for some help in developing a city energy plan.

The energy action plan originally was estimated to cost $44,000 for consultants but was taken out of the city's Comprehensive Plan in May to save money, City Council president Randy Staver said.

The city council advised the energy commission to get a detailed proposal from a consultant, including more specific line items, for future consideration.

Commission member Jill Mickelson said the energy commission has tried to put together an energy action plan with volunteers over the past few years, but it wasn't possible.

"We've definitely got ideas and a road map for this effort," Mickelson said. "We just really don't have the resources to get it done."

Though there would be an initial cost for a consultant, an energy action plan would save the city money in the long run, commission president Edward Cohen said.

"It's one of the few things you'd spend money on that will pay for itself over time," he said.

According to the ordinance that created the group, the plan should "implement actions that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions to targeted levels."

The plan should be considered as part of the city's Comprehensive Plan, according to the ordinance. The energy action plan was listed as an alternate, if money should allow, for the comprehensive plan, Staver said.

The need is real. In addition to the Urban Land Institute study, paid for in part by the energy commission,data from the state-mandated Buildings, Benchmarks and Beyond program found a similar need for energy improvement in the city's buildings.

"If we look at the municipal buildings, they're just incredibly inefficient," energy commission member Steven Soltis said. "If (City Hall) were built to today's construction standards, to code, it would save $85,000 per year in just the energy."

The commission already has created a baseline benchmark inventory with the Urban Land Institute study, and the Buildings, Benchmarks and Beyond program has recommended target goals for the future, two of its main objectives. The next logical step is the energy action plan, Cohen said.

"As a volunteer body made up of seven working people and two retired guys, we have accomplished everything that it's possible for a group of volunteers to do," Cohen said.

Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede praised the work of the commission so far and said he hoped the city would respond positively to the request for an energy action plan.

"It just seems to me that as far as they have gone, we would be doing a disservice by not helping them," Brede said.

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