Partnership's Efforts Help Cut Energy Use In Valley

The San Joaquin Valley isn't the hottest place in California, but it's close. The I-think-I'm-going-to-spontaneously combust summer temperatures often reach triple digits. As a result, the region's power bills and energy consumption are often among the highest in the state.

But, an interesting thing has happened since the nonprofit San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, which developed out of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, was formed in 2007. Electricity use in the Valley dropped 11 percent between 2007 and 2009, which contrasted with a 4.5 percent dip statewide, according to the Partnership's 2010-11 report.

Energy efficiency is a big part of SJVCEO's mission. It partners with local governments and utilities to help implement programs designed to slash energy consumption, thus saving residents and local government money in this era of austerity and tight budgets. The programs also lead to smaller carbon footprints at a time when environmental issues are rising to the fore.

The SJVCEO's Valley Innovative Energy Watch (VIEW) partnership with Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company and eight local governments in the South Valley has led to substantial energy savings in those communities. The projected savings from this partnership is expected to exceed 4 million kWh.

The organization also is helping implement the Clean Energy Partnership, an ambitious program that also includes the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, two Investor Owned Utilities, and 36 local governments. The goal is to replace inefficient equipment in publicly-owned buildings from Stanislaus to Kern counties.

In addition, SJVCEO promotes and conducts outreach for the City of Fresno's Home Energy Tune-Up program, which is available to residents of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. The initiative is funded by a federal grant in collaboration with the state's Energy Upgrade California Program, and enables property owners to replace lighting, increase insulation or make other improvements that will significantly lower their power bills.

The cost of the upgrades is usually recouped in a few years through energy savings. The great thing is that those savings continue, which gives those families more money to invest or use for other purposes. It also helps offset any utility rate increases.

The SJVCEO expects energy usage to continue to decline as the existing programs mature and as more initiatives come on line. The organization will soon begin a grant-funded effort to help cities "benchmark" energy consumption and prepare energy action plans.

Energy efficiency has been described as the "low-hanging fruit" of the clean-energy movement, so it makes sense for an organization based in one of the state's most energy-intensive areas to start picking it.