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Report: Cook County Exceeds Emission Reduction Goals

A new report shows Cook County has reduced greenhouse gases from county buildings by 22 percent over the past five years.

The county says it’s ahead of its goal to reduce emissions from its buildings by 80 percent by the year 2050, according to the Cook County Annual Sustainability Report. 

Deborah Stone, the county’s chief sustainability officer, said 12 of the county’s nearly 200 buildings had some energy efficiency updates. Those updates include replacing lights and boilers.

“If you took the amount of energy we’ve saved over the few years since the result of these projects, and looked at those in today’s prices, we’ve probably saved about $5 million,” she said.

County officials said Guaranteed Energy Performance Contracts led to $24 million in improvements at the Stroger Hospital campus and $36 million at the Department of Corrections facilities. The upgrades will save about $4 million a year in operational and utility costs over the 20-year contract period.

The report also said the county reduced water usage at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse by 52 percent in the first five months of 2016, compared to the same period a year before. The county upgraded plumbing fixtures with high-efficiency toilets and faucet aerators.

Stone said the county plans to expand the water reduction initiative to other buildings.

The report also highlights programs it hopes to develop, like a solar initiative. The county is one of 15 recipients nationwide awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Market Pathway project.

The idea is that a building owner could install solar panels on the property, and residents could pay into the system to offset their own energy costs. Right now, only 25 percent of county households can access solar energy.

The county has selected pilot sites and conducted a financial review to determine logistics.

The county also reduced its vehicle inventory, diverted more than 900,000 tons of buildings materials from landfills and began assessing 42 brownfield sites in the Western Suburbs, according to the report.

Susie An is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @soosieon.

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