SolarCity acquisition may boost energy audit awareness

The news this morning that SolarCity purchased a startup that created home energy audit software may have ramifications for those in the San Joaquin Valley looking to lower their energy costs by tightening up their houses and buildings.

Today, the California Energy Commission is expected to approve more than $4 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants to cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership. The money will pay for energy efficiency retrofits at city, county and school district buildings.

The work was identified through energy audits, and that's exactly what Building Solutions of Redwood City provides. Foster City-based SolarCity sees synergy in the joining of the two companies, writes Katie Fehrenbacher of "SolarCity will use the home energy software to offer its solar customers home energy audits and plans to marry its solar software with the Building Solutions application," she said.

SolarCity's move -- in addition to bolstering its bottom line -- also could increase awareness of the importance of energy audits.

Building Solutions says a homeowner can reduce energy bills by 20 percent to 50 percent by following the recommendations of an energy auditor. The auditor runs through a checklist, looking for air leaks and rating heating/cooling duct pressure. The auditor also inputs building data such as size, windows and other details and analyzes energy bills, rates insulation levels and notes lighting types and heating and cooling systems.

Basically it's the same thing auditors from PG&E, Southern California Edison and the CEC did for cities and counties applying for the EECBG stimulus grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. Those grants pay for energy efficient lighting, AC systems, water pumps and other retrofits.

The idea is that there's a future in energy efficiency. The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization hopes to continue to seek opportunities to provide homeowners, business owners and others with assistance in reducing their energy bills. A bright spot to that end is the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, which would provide $5.7 billion in rebates for home energy efficiency improvements. It passed the U.S. House last week.

The SJVCEO is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.

Photo courtesy SolarCity. It shows a Clovis house with a solar array that produces about 5,000 kWh annually. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated the national annual average consumption of a home at 11,040 kWh.