Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

wEEkly update


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8th Annual Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum June 14-15
Mark your calendars for June 14th-15th. The annual SEEC Forum will be in Fresno with two pre-forum workshops on June 13th focusing on Energy Efficiency 101 and Zero Net Energy for Local Governments. Click here to find more information and register for the forum.

News and Opportunities

BART's New Sustainability Effort
Holly Gordon, BART's Sustainability Group Manager discusses the latest effort to make BART more sustainable.

Low-Income Renters Face Barriers to Clean Energy
Maria Stamas of NRDC reviews the SB 350 Barriers Study from the California Energy Commission.

2017 Linda Latham Scholarship
ACEEE has announced that they are accepting applications for the Linda Latham Scholarships to attend their 2017 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry in Denver, Colorado from August 15 -18, 2017.

There’s Vast Untapped Potential for Solar Rooftops in the US, Says Google
Greentech Media reviews Google's Project Sunroof since it's launch two years ago. The website now includes 60 million rooftops across the country.

Publications and Resources

Let's Talk Communities & Climate
ICLEI in collaboration with Path to Positive Communities and ecoAmerica have developed a guide to help local government and community leaders successfully communicate local climate change solutions to their communities.

Financing Energy Savings Through On-Bill Repayment
Recognizing the potential opportunities for affordable rental property owners, the California Housing Partnership Corporation reports on a pilot study of on-bill repayment (OBR) at five affordable rental home properties in the City of Santa Monica.

Rate Design Matters: The Intersection of Residential Rate Design and Energy Efficiency
ACEE explores the relationship between changes in residential rate design and energy efficiency, focusing on how recently proposed rate structures alter customer behavior through a review of recent pricing studies across the country.

New Edition of Blueprint
The California Energy Commission has released a new edition of Blueprint, their newsletter for energy efficiency and Title 24 Energy Standards.

Career Opportunities

Executive Director/Air Pollution Control Officer - Sacramento
The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District is currently offering a unique opportunity for an innovative, energetic leader to lead one of California’s premier Air Quality Management Districts. The final day to apply is Friday, March 31st.

Management Analyst - City of Palmdale
The City of Palmdale is seeking a Management Analyst that will support environmental and energy efficiency projects. The final date to apply is Thursday, March 30th.

Energy Technician - Redwood Coast Energy Authority
Redwood Coast Energy Authority has an immediate full time benefited position for an Energy Technician. The selected Energy Technician will support Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s Energy Watch partnership’s Regional Direct Install program.


SEEC Calendar 
Click the SEEC Calendar link to view all upcoming events.

3/30 Webinar: Risks and Rewards in the ZNE Marketplace
Explore and understand the developer and owner perspectives on investor value of zero and take a close look at income, cost, and risk.

3/30 Webinar - State of Advanced Energy: Markets, Trends, Jobs
Highlights from the fifth edition of AEE's annual report of the advanced energy industry, worldwide and in the United States, as well as the latest numbers of advanced energy jobs from the second national survey of energy employment by the Dept. of Energy.

4/20 Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo (Downey)
The U.S Green Building Council Los Angeles Chapter (USGBC-LA) Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo (MGBCE) is the longest running annual green building event in Southern California.

4/26-4/27 Green California Summit (Sacramento)
The Summit provides a forum where innovations in policy, technology and practice can be showcased and shared.

CivicSpark is now recruiting Project Partners for 2017-18
Over the past 3 years, CivicSpark, LGC's Governor's Initiative AmeriCorps program has provided 130,000+ hrs of climate and water capacity-building support to over 100 public agencies. If you are a local government, State agency, or an NGO with a climate or water action project need, visit our website to learn more and apply to receive project support!

Corporate Utilities

As Apple stores, data centers and warehouses expand across the globe, the company is looking toward supplying renewable energy… for itself.

Walmart and Google both prioritize renewable energy projects as well, each hoping to eventually get to 100% renewable power. Energy use has skyrocketed in the past few years due to the cloud. So, companies supporting this data have needed to look for alternative ways to support these systems.

Apple's new solar farm through First Solar
Photo Source: NY Times
Companies, as energy wholesalers and efficient users of energy, can reduce their plug loads drastically, reducing operation costs. However, many of these companies are equally focused on the environmental benefits; they understand how necessary it is to change with the times and adopt new energy- and money-saving technologies. Energy production is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and so companies committed to a clean and renewable future want to minimize these emissions through supplying and using renewable energy.

Apple is always looking for new and creative ways to increase its dependence on renewable energy especially as energy from renewable sources continues to drop and be competitive. The company recently went under contract with First Solar to, over 25 years, purchase a new solar farm’s full energy output. This contract allows Apple to be at least somewhat autonomous in its energy purchases and not be subject to higher prices from bigger power companies.

Corporate Renewable Projects
Photo Source: BRC
The number of corporate renewable energy programs and projects doubled from 2013 to 2014 and again from 2014 to 2015 (see image from the BRC). However, while companies are installing large-scale solar projects and purchasing clean energy from local biomass generators for some of their facilities, there is still much to accomplish. The grid is still monopolized by carbon-based energy sources. So, even if a company is dedicated to 100% renewable power, there’s no way to guarantee all energy from the grid is renewable.

Apple, Walmart, Google, and others like MacDonald’s and GM are working with World Resources Institute to determine how to meet the demand for renewable energy in the corporate world. This is a global issue that will only become more serious. 

The good news? Some of the biggest and most influential companies and research institutions committed to this energy supply problem, and so we will see a faster and much more wide spread adoption of technology advances, policy changes and public awareness.

Energy Audits of Small Government Buildings

A walk through audit is just that--walking through a building, looking for quick and easy ways to save energy.  You're not looking to see if the occupancy sensor in a room needs to be relocated, but rather finding obvious energy-saving measures.  And when performed after benchmarking your building(s), you can save time and money by only auditing buildings that have a really high energy foot print for the type of building it is.  Here at SJVCEO we benchmark A LOT of small government buildings, so we have a pretty good sense of how much energy a City Hall of a certain size consumes here in the San Joaquin Valley.  Or a fire station, or even a police station.  And the more similar facilities we benchmark, the stronger our case is when we say “This building needs an audit. Here’s where it falls on the spectrum of similar facilities in the San Joaquin Valley.”  Wouldn't you like to know if you should be keeping up with the Joneses?  Or, what if you are the Joneses?
The first part of performing a walk through audit is to gather up all the information and equipment you may need before you walk in.  That includes:
  • An energy consumption chart of the past 12 month of energy consumption.  It may help you identify and/or confirms problems in the building.
  • Satellite imagery.  How large is the building?  Does it have an attached parking lot?  How many rooftop units might you encounter?  Google Streetview can help you here too.
  • The building's floor plan.  If you're marking potential energy-saving measures, you'll want to note where they are.  Also, so you don't get lost!
  • A camera phone.  An iPhone takes really pictures, has a built-in flash, and is thin enough to fit around tight corners.  And sometimes, the zoom is pretty decent too.
  • A light meter.  How much light hits the surfaces that are to be illuminated?  Is it enough, too much or not enough?  Ensuring there's the right amount of light hitting surfaces can reduce your energy consumption and/or increase office productivity.
  • A fluorescent ballast checker.  A T-8 lamp may look energy efficient, but it could be running on a magnetic ballast, known to consume more energy than necessary.  Using one of these lets you find out if they are without opening up the fixture.
  • A clipboard and paper.  You may not have a surface available to write on, and you'll definitely be taking notes along the way.
  • Typical energy consumption breakdown for the building's use.  You can go to the California End Use Survey (CEUS) website, which will show you on average how much each end use (lighting, cooling, heating) consumes for a type of building. The charts it produces help you focus your efforts by identifying where the largest amount of energy goes.
    Lighting, office equipment, and air conditioning
    are the largest consumers of energy
    in San Joaquin Valley small offices. Source: CEUS
Once you're in the building, you'll want to talk to individuals how may know the most about how the building operates.  When does the lights come on?  Who turns off and on the thermostat?  Speaking of thermostats...

Be sure to record the schedule and temperature settings of the thermostats.  Workers don't like to be uncomfortable, so the settings they plug into it might indicate a lot.  If they have the cooling temperature set really low, that might indicate a failing compressor or vents located in the wrong places.  You may not be able to point out a fix, but the building operators should definitely know to consider looking more into it.

Also, the schedule might be off!  Maybe it comes on 2 hours before work starts, or stays on longer than it needs to.  A lot of City Halls also hold City Council meetings at night, but typically not weekends, and especially not every night.  Those changes are quick and painless, and result in instant and often impressive savings.

Look in the cubicles.  Are there smart power strips?  Often overlooked, but employees aren’t at their desk all the time. If there’s nothing to turn off auxiliary devices when their space is vacant, there’s some additional savings.  While you're there, ask if the computers go to sleep or into hibernation automatically.  If they don't, there's even more savings there too!

Look for occupancy sensors in areas that aren't occupied often, like bathrooms and conference rooms, and especially Council chambers.  Lights in those areas are often left on longer than they need to be, and can be easily retrofitted for quick savings.

Take a look outside, too.  Some building-attached lighting can be really inefficient, and even more so if they are on an indoor switch.  Changing them to a photo sensor or time clock can save a lot of money without a lot of headache.  Even more can be saved by switching to LED.  The same goes for parking lot lights.  Their long run hours make for a quick payback, even if the building is on a time-of-use rate.

Once you're finished tallying up all the measures, you'll want to calculate how much each will save. Some will be easier (like lighting) than others.  Energy rates can be found on their respective utility company's website, or you can use a general Annual Consumption divided by Annual Cost for an average Cost per kWh.  Don't bother getting too bogged down in calculating exactly how much each measure will save, as this is just a walk through audit.  Prices for materials are easy to find, but labor can be a different story.  Find the prevailing wage rate for the type of work (for electrical, its typically Inside Wireman) and make an assumption for how much time the work might take, or ask your City Engineer for an estimate.  Take that cost, and divide it by annual cost savings, and you have yourself the Simple Payback.  You can even take the inverse of that number (1/X) and get the Return on Investment percentage too.  Do this for every measure, total it up, and do it again.  Some measures might have a long payback, but combined with faster payback measures, you can get a lot of savings very quickly!

Merry Christmas From Google: Big Investment Into Solar Power Near Sacramento

Google, enticed in part by Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD)'s new feed-in-tariff, just announced a big investment into solar power near California's capital. Here's more from the search engine's blog.

The $94 million infusion into Recurrent Energy's (Recurrent also has a big solar project planned near Fresno) four plants near Sacramento brings Google's renewable energy portfolio to nearly $1 billion. Here is more on its clean energy investments, but they include utility-scale solar, financing programs for residential rooftop solar, and wind power.

Google recently said it will stop internal solar research programs, but would continue to invest in individual projects.

Google's announcement follows one yesterday by a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's company, which announced a minority investment into a huge solar project in Arizona. That, in turn, followed his purchase of a large solar project just west of the San Joaquin Valley. More on those here.

It remains to be seen how solar power fares in 2012, especially if certain subsidies expire, but investors with deep pockets still continue to pursue it, especially in California where the state passed an ambitious 33 percent renewables mandate. The industry is emerging in fits and starts, but clearly some people think there is power in the sun.

Illustration by Kiril Havezov

Tech companies move up list of green power purchasers

Tech companies Google and Ingram Micro have scurried onto a list of the nation's top green energy users.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its list of top 50 green power purchasers, and Mountain View, Calif.-based Google and Santa Ana, Calif.-based Ingram, a maker of information technology products, edged their way onto the charts.

The companies join others like Walmart and Intel that have embraced sustainability and are setting an example to others of balancing saving money with environmental stewardship.

"By making the switch to renewable power, these forward thinking companies are reducing greenhouse gasses and other harmful air pollution so that Americans can breathe easier.” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a statement.

No. 1 on the list is Intel Corp. with 2.5 billion kilowatt hours of green energy purchased amounting to 88 percent of its consumption. The rest of the top five include No. 2 Kohl's Department Stores with 1.4 billion kWh and 100 percent of its consumption, No. 3 Whole Foods Market with 752 million kWh and 100 percent, No. 4 City of Houston with 438 million kWh and 34 percent and No. 5 Starbucks with 422 million kWh and 52 percent.

PepsiCo left the top five this year, dropping off the list entirely.

EPA officials say the top 50 purchasers use more than 14 billion kWh of green power annually, "equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of more than 1.2 million average American homes." Green power is generated from renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, and low-impact hydropower.

EPA says Google purchases green power from NextEra Energy Resources, Renewable Choice Energy and Puget Sound Energy and has helped create the largest residential solar fund in the country. It also has invested in the world's largest wind farm, the Alta Wind Energy Center near Tehachapi, Calif., and the Ivanpah Power Tower solar project in California’s Mojave Desert.

Ingram Micro's purchases of more than 3 million kWh of green power annually puts it low on the volume list, but it's enough green power to meet 107 percent of the company's electricity use.

More Evidence That Going Green Pays Huge Dividends

The brainiacs at Google and manufacturers in Wisconsin came up with similar conclusions in different studies. Google gazed into the future and predicted the potential for billions in new GDP through green energy. The localized Wisconsin study reviewed a pilot program in place and found millions saved in energy costs and millions in new revenue.

What does all this mean? I'll let the Wisconsin authors respond in a quote from their report:

"The obvious potential for economic growth, environmental impact reduction and job creation simply cannot be ignored...The results clearly establish that economic growth and improved environmental outcomes are not mutually exclusive."

Here is a link to the Wisconsin report, which highlights the Wisconsin Profitable Sustainability Initiative launched in April 2010. Cost-analysis studies of 87 projects and 45 manufacturers calculated $4.1 million in annual savings (projected to $26.9 million over 5 years), $23.5 million in increased/retained sales and a 31-1 return on investment. Here's more.

This study by Google is a bit over my I-barely-made-it-through-geometry head, but I understand the conclusions: Innovation + clean energy policies = a major league economic boon.

Google, in its official blog, summarizes the study, which used McKinsey's Low Carbon Economics Tool to assess economic impacts. Conclusion: Billions in new GDP by 2030; at least 1.1 million new full-time jobs per year; reduction of nearly $1,000 in average annual household energy bills and a decline in U.S. oil consumption of about 1.1 billion barrels per year.

Google, which has invested millions in renewable energy and efficiency programs, also found that sooner rather than later is key, and that strong energy policy combined with innovation speeds up and expands results:

"...A mere five-year delay (2010-2015) in accelerating technology innovation led to $2.3-$3.2 trillion in unrealized GDP, an aggregate 1.2-14 million net unrealized jobs and 8-28 more gigatons of potential GHG emissions by 2050," the report states.

These studies are further evidence that a strong clean-energy program, which should include efficiency as well as innovation, could do wonders, or should I say "trillions," for deficit-wracked budgets.

Increasing revenue and cutting costs. What better budget plan is there?

(Photo of Madison, WI., by plasticboy)

Google Edges Closer To California's Clean Energy Heartland

Most people know Google as the leading Internet search engine, but the high-tech company is investing heavily in renewable energy in California and other places. Just weeks after announcing a big investment in a Mojave Desert solar farm, Google now has placed a $55 million bet on a wind farm in Tehachapi - just off our southern tip.

The company is teaming up with Citibank to buy a part of the Alta Wind Energy Center, one of the largest wind installations in the world, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a press release, Google says its latest outlay - which ups its total investment in renewable energy to $400 million - could help usher in a new energy future.

Google says its experience with solar energy shows that renewable power makes good business sense. Read more about that here.

Google consumes a ton of power through data centers, and says it wants to develop energy from renewable sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The Tehachapi project had other attributes as well.

"As part of the new 4,500 MW Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, AWEC uses some of the first transmission lines developed specifically to transport renewable energy from remote, resource-rich areas (like the Mojave) to major population centers."

Google also was drawn to the innovative leverage lease financing structure. "...Google and Citi are purchasing the Alta IV project and will lease it back to Terra-Gen, who will manage and operate the wind projects under long-term agreements. We hope this structure encourages more investment by enabling other types of investors who might not typically consider wind projects."

Here is a breakdown of Google's other green investments (minus the Tehachapi project).

The Tehachapi deal brings Google tantalizingly close to the resource-rich and geographically-blessed San Joaquin Valley, which we believe could be a center of renewable energy.

We have the sun (which we'll probably start to notice in earnest in a few weeks), thousands of acres of flat land reasonably free of environmental issues, access to the transmission grid, and a rich agricultural heritage that lays the foundation for the possible development of biofuels.

The Valley's farmers already are leaders in renewable energy - check out this story of a Hanford dairy that is using solar to cut its power use 75% - and will likely boost those efforts as the sustainability movement grabs hold.

Is it unrealistic to think that Google could someday invest in the Valley - and provide an economic spark to a region that is primed for better days?

Image of Alta Wind Energy Center by

Wiring up green energy ain't easy

Europe and the United States see quite a bit of potential in green energy.

Yet, problems arise immediately. Renewables are expensive and often in remote spots far from existing power lines.

Take offshore wind power generation.

The North Sea, East Coast and other sites offer phenomenally blustery conditions but huge challenges. Those difficulties raise the question of how to get that power safely and efficiently to market without putting the price per kilowatt out of reach?

The same holds true for wave-generating devices, Mojave solar panels or geothermal sites. They're out in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking. Reminds me of the random efforts over the past 50 years to build a dam on the Yukon River up in Alaska. Not only is that crazy from an environmental perspective, but who the heck would use the power? Bears? Yet, there were some proponents who continually brought it up.

In the Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research report "Electricity Transmission Infrastructure," out earlier this year, officials wrote: "In order to reap the full benefits of renewable energy and smart grid technologies, the capacity and information-carrying ability of transmission systems must be increased substantially."

Not a simple task.

Stringing cable across any sea floor is difficult and expensive but not prohibitive. Google plans to spend billions on the Atlantic Wind Connection, which will rest 15 to 20 miles offshore and run from New Jersey to Virginia, and just reported that ministers from 10 European nations have agreed on construction of a new offshore electricity grid.

Meanwhile, companies are increasing their purchase of "green" energy. For instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized Starbucks for doubling its green power purchase, increasing its ranking to No. 4 on EPA’s National Top 50 list of the largest green power purchasers.

Starbucks green power purchases amount to more than 573 million kilowatt-hours annually, or about 55 percent of the organization's electricity use, EPA said. The EPA's top 50 is headed up by Intel at No. 1, Kohl's at No. 2 and Whole Foods at No. 3.

The desire is there. What it means and the debate over where it's going gives my colleague Sanford Nax and I something to contemplate. We don't really have much of an idea, but work to keep our outlook positive as we discuss the future of green energy.

Pike predicts the domestic power transmission market will grow by 3.5 percent over the next five years and by a compound annual growth rate of 1.5 percent internationally over the next decade. Renewables and capacity and reliability enhancements are among the drivers of the move, researchers said.

As evidenced by the deal by Europe, much depends on government involvement. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden and signed a memorandum of understanding for the new offshore grid that would connect a 140 gigawatt offshore wind farm planned for the North Sea to grids on land.

In this country, the U.S. Department of Energy has launched a big push to help jump start the effort of offshore power. I wrote this fall that DOE's embrace is a big step for a neglected resource many believe has the potential to supply a serious percentage of this nation's electricity demand.

Perhaps the role of government is to ease the regulatory process somewhat and let the private sector see what floats, or doesn't. At the SJVCEO, we believe the San Joaquin Valley perfectly positioned to capitalize on clean energy in its many guises, and we'd certainly love to see rapid development in all green sectors.