Working With Energy Utilities to Finance Energy-Efficiency Improvements
An Interview With California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin
Funding is available to help cities plan sustainable communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ken Loman is a policy consultant for the California Climate Action Network (CCAN), a program of the Institute for Local Government (ILG) and can be reached at email@example.com. Yvonne Hunter is program director of CCAN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Think long term, and consider the costs and benefits that will accrue over the entire life cycle of a system or piece of equipment.
- Compare energy-efficiency investments to the costs of continuing “business as usual” without making changes.
- Include direct and indirect benefits (co-benefits) in cost-effectiveness analyses.
- Consider the public leadership aspects of thoughtful decisions to invest in energy efficiency that demonstrate a commitment to promoting sustainability, conserving resources and saving taxpayer dollars.
Local Examples: Energy-Efficiency Retrofits
Sonoma County upgraded air conditioning and ventilation equipment with more efficient motors and fans at its Main Adult Detention Facility. The retrofits will reduce Sonoma County’s annual electricity use by 263,946 kilowatt hours (kWh), and save the county an estimated $75,333 annually. Pacific Gas & Electric provided a financial incentive of $23,855 that helped reduce the cost.
The City of Palm Springs upgraded the lighting in its Police Department by replacing 120 T12 fluorescent lighting fixtures with more efficient T8 fixtures. The upgrades will reduce the city’s annual electricity use by 131,192 kWh and save the city an estimated $17,054 annually. Southern California Edison provided a financial incentive of $18,878 to help reduce the cost.
The City of Huntington Beach identified energy-efficiency opportunities in its civic center. The city performed a top-to-bottom building tune-up to make sure the various systems were working well together and installed energy-management equipment to help control the heating and air conditioning system. As a result the city will save about 24,526 therms annually. Southern California Gas Company provided Huntington Beach with an energy-efficiency incentive of $24,526 to help pay for the improvements. In addition, the city will continue to receive the benefit of about $13,668 in annual savings, depending on the cost of natural gas.
The City of Chula Vista upgraded the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system for its Maxwell Road Public Works Facility, consisting of offices, a central garage and warehouse space. The upgrades will reduce the city’s annual electricity use by 282,700 kWh and save the city an estimated $32,110 annually. San Diego Gas & Electric provided a financial incentive of $47,878 that helped reduce the cost of the upgrades.
In an interesting twist, the City of El Cerrito uses an innovative program to finance energy-efficiency upgrades and retrofits — it loans itself money. The city’s Energy and Water Efficiency Program (EWEP) is a revolving loan fund established by the city to fund projects that improve the resource efficiency of city operations. El Cerrito uses a portion of the savings from those improvements to repay the loan fund and invest in additional water- and energy-efficiency projects. The city established the EWEP with funds from its capital improvement budget and a start-up grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Links to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources
A summary of utility financing options is available through the individual links below or through the Institute for Local Government’s climate change program (http://www.ca-ilg.org/climatechange). For a comprehensive list of resources on financing local sustainability efforts, visit www.ca-ilg.org/ghgfinance.
Utility providers offer financing incentives through rebates and other mechanism to promote energy-efficiency retrofitting of agency facilities. A summary of utility financing options and websites is available at individual utilities or through the California Climate Action Network (CCAN). To learn more about CCAN, visit www.ca-ilg.org/ClimatePractices.
Flex Your Power
Flex Your Power offers a searchable database of energy rebates, incentives and services available throughout California for a wide range of products.
California Energy Commission (CEC)
The CEC offers various grants and loans to promote energy efficiency and climate change.
American Recovery & Reinvestment Act Funding: The commission’s traditional energy funding resources have been supplemented by funding from the federal government under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act program. It is unclear at this time whether these funds must be used for energy-related purposes only or if they can be used for broader climate change projects as well. The CEC is currently establishing criteria and guidelines for the types of projects that it will fund. See new ARRA Funding Update from the CEC. The best way to keep track of the most current information about the CEC’s program is to sign up for the ARRA list serve at the bottom right on the commission's ARRA page.
The following links provide information on other CEC programs of particular interest to cities and counties that provide support for local agency energy efficiency efforts.
CEC Emerging Renewables Program: This program provides rebates for installation of small wind or fuel cell electricity systems.
CEC Energy Efficiency Financing Loans: The California Energy Commission (CEC) offers up to $3 million per application in energy efficiency financing and low interest loans to cities and counties for installing energy-saving projects.
CEC Energy Partnership Program: The CEC provides technical assistance services (up to $20,000 of consultant costs) to assist with conducting energy audits, review existing proposals and designs, and develop equipment performance specifications.
CEC Grants for Small Local Governments:$30 million is available to smaller cities and counties through a competitive grant program offered by the California Energy Commission. CEC has developed the guidelines for this program with extensive stakeholder input.
California Solar Initiative
The California Solar Initiative is part of the Go Solar California program. It offers rebates for installation of solar photovoltaic systems to customers in California's investor-owned utility territories: Pacific Gas & Electric; Southern California Edison; and San Diego Gas & Electric.
The Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created in 2007 by AB 118 and administered by the California Energy Commission, offers grants, loans, loan guarantees, revolving loans and other appropriate measures to promote use of various fuel-efficient transportation technologies. Eligible recipients include public agencies.
Water and Wastewater Systems
There are a variety of financial resources that provide grants, loans, and rebates related to water and waste water systems. These include programs managed by utility providers, state agencies and other organizations. Here is information about, and links to, several key resources.