Article Features

Coping with the Crunch: Utility and Water Savings

Huntington Beach Uncovers Utility Savings

As part of its efforts to identify potential cost savings, the City of Huntington Beach recently hired an energy project manager to evaluate its utility bills. By looking for unnecessary costs and identifying opportunities to recover costs, the energy project manager uncovered $62,000 in annual savings and $192,000 in recoverable funds. After scrutinizing the city’s energy bills, he also recommended a new set of highly cost-effective energy projects, which are being funded to help the city save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in utility costs.

These new projects, called Phase 1 Projects, include new software, upgrades on air conditioning and a top to bottom building tune-up, also known as commissioning. The cost to the city is approximately $130,000, and the projects will create a recurring annual savings of $330,000 — a return on investment of more than 250 percent every year. The efforts of the energy project manager will save the City of Huntington Beach nearly $400,000 annually.

Contact: Aaron Klemm, energy project manager, City of Huntington Beach; phone: (714) 536-5537; e-mail:

San Mateo County Energy Watch Offers Wide Range of Programs

 San Mateo County (SMC) Energy Watch is a local-government partnership between the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County and Pacific Gas and Electric. SMC Energy Watch offers a comprehensive portfolio of energy-efficiency programs — including audits, retrofits and rebates — to municipalities, small businesses, nonprofits and residential customers.

Over its three-year program cycle from 2009–11, SMC Energy Watch aims to save 9.5 million kilowatt-hours, 1,000 kilowatts of peak demand and 22,000 therms of natural gas. The program has a budget of $3.5 million to fund staffing, outreach, energy-efficiency retrofits, rebates and incentives. SMC Energy Watch is funded by the public goods charge that ratepayers pay on their utility bills; the California Public Utilities Commission collects and administers this funding.

SMC Energy Watch provides energy-efficiency services for facilities of public agencies and nonprofits, including com-prehensive energy audits, rebates and incentives, and other retrofit and retro-commissioning projects. SMC Energy Watch also offers energy-efficiency services for small and medium-sized businesses. Later in 2009, services for low-income residents will include free weatherization measures, such as installing attic insulation and energy-efficient furnaces.

The project will also deliver energy-efficiency training to San Mateo County’s building community and offer workshops and other resources to support cities’ climate action programs.

The SMC Energy Watch website is currently under construction and expected to launch in late summer 2009 (at

Contact: Alexis Petru, County of San Mateo energy officer; phone: (650) 599-1403; e-mail:

Riverside Offers Municipal Utility Customers Tools and Rebates for Water Conservation

 Blue Riverside is a community outreach effort to increase awareness of Riverside Public Utilities’ (RPU) water programs, which include rebates for water efficiency measures, recycled water projects and more.

“It’s all about our customers,” said Kevin Milligan, RPU assistant general manager for water. “We want them to know how to save this precious resource. It benefits everyone.”

Blue Riverside recently introduced three new water-saving rebate programs for its customers who:

  • Switch out standard sprinkler heads with water-saving rotating sprinkler heads;
  • Convert existing turf areas to water-wise landscaping; or
  • Replace existing grass with artificial turf.

Comprehensive information about RPU water programs, pipeline retrofits, major projects and annual water quality reporting are posted online at

Contact: Austin Carter, public information officer, Riverside Public Utilities; phone: (951) 826-2139; e-mail:

Redwood City Helps Large Landscape-Irrigation Customers Conserve

In 2001, Redwood City launched an aggressive water conservation program aimed at helping its large landscape irrigation customers. Since that time, Redwood City has developed individualized water budgets for all of its landscape irrigation customers and provides this information to them as part of a water conservation education program. This program saves approximately 15 percent of the total water used by this class of customers.

Redwood City also recently implemented a Water Allocation Program for this same customer class, which combines the individual water budgets with a new set of landscape irrigation rates to provide an even greater incentive for these customers to conserve. Though this program is relatively new and the savings have not yet been measured, the program has the potential to save as much as 30 percent of total water use for this customer class — about 140 million gallons per year.

A key component of the program is an automatic metering infrastructure for all landscape irrigation accounts, which allows data on water use to be available to the city on an hourly basis. The city monitors this information to identify leaks and notify customers. These large landscape water customers can also access their own water use budget and hourly water use data online to compare current water use to budget at any point in the billing period.

Contact: Justin Ezell, Public Workds Services; phone: (650) 780-7474; or visit  

This article appears in the July 2009 issue of Western City
Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to Western City