Wednesday, July 31, 2013

EE Tip from Fig: Do NOT do this

Fig says, “While I can’t resist the lure of the cool air and an empty shelf, you most definitely should NOT linger with the refrigerator door open.” 

According to The Daily Green, the less time that fridge door stays open the better. In fact, you could save 7 percent on operating costs.

{Fig also says, "You need to go grocery shopping, mom!"}

Friday, July 26, 2013

CURRENTS: An Energy Newsletter for Local Governments | Summer 2013 Edition

CURRENTS is a publication by Pat Stoner, the Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator.  Pat has been writing and distributing CURRENTS: An Energy Newsletter for Local Governments since 1998.  We thank Pat for allowing us to post his newsletter on our blog.  To subscribe to CURRENTS, email Patrick Stoner ( 

Please visit the Statewide Coordinator web site at:

Energy Efficiencies In Five Rural Communities In Five Days

Congressman Jim Costa, Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson, Mendota Mayor Robert Silva, and officials from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Richard Heath and Associates (RHA), and the Center for Irrigation Technology’s Advanced Pumping Efficiency Program were on hand to kick off a week long campaign of energy efficiency upgrades to the western Fresno County rural communities of Mendota, Kerman, Firebaugh, San Joaquin, Coalinga and Huron last August. The campaign was dubbed ‘Five Cities, Five Days.” read more...

Sonoma County Community Choice Aggregation

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted to implement Sonoma Clean Power. This program will focus on providing a cleaner power mix for Sonoma County customers. The Board's decision means that this service will be made available to about 100,000 customers in the unincorporated areas of the county. read more...

How Benchmarking Makes Cities Smarter

By Caroline Keicher Program Manager, Building Energy Performance Policy, The Institute for Market Transformation

2013 looks like it will be a banner year for building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies. With Philadelphia’s policy adoption closing out 2012 on a high note, Minneapolis got us started strong in January of 2013—becoming the seventh U.S. city, and the first in the Midwest, to pass a policy requiring transparency of energy performance in large commercial buildings. read more...

ACEEE Report: Assisting Home Buyers With Increased Energy Use Information

What if people could have access to a piece of valuable information that they don’t currently receive about the house they are considering for purchase? What if this could happen with very little bureaucracy and limited program implementation costs? Sound appealing? read more...

Trading New Development For Water Savings In Napa

The City of Napa has a medium-sized water system of about 25,000 connections. Its Water Demand Mitigation (Water Offset) requirement for new development has historically been known as the ‘Toilet Retrofit Program,’ because the water savings were achieved by replacing older 3.5+ gallon-per-flush (gpf) toilets with 1.6 gpf ultra-low-flush toilets (ULFTs). Several years ago, that replacement toilet specification changed to EPA WaterSense-labeled 1.28 gpf high-efficiency toilets (HETs). read more...

Optimizing Municipal Facility Performance: Retrocommissioning Program Toolkit For Local Governments

By The California Sustainability Alliance

In its Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established a strategic framework for helping local governments advance sustainability within their jurisdictions. The Plan calls for local governments to influence the community, leverage local authority and lead by example by improving resource efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and cutting energy bills in their own facilities. read more...

Solar Energy Resource Guide

The Northern California Solar Energy Association (NorCal Solar) released its 9th edition Solar Energy Resource Guide (SERG) last July. This highly-regarded publication is a primer on just about all things solar, written and reviewed by experts. read more...

Zero Net Energy For Policymakers & Local Governments

Are you pursuing zero net energy (ZNE) buildings, goals or policies in your jurisdiction?Do you need information, tools and other resources to help?
Connect with public sector leaders in Sacramento on July 16th for a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Leadership meeting to share experiences and learn about tools and resources to achieve ZNE. read more...

Upcoming Events

The following list of upcoming events may be of interested to you. read more...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A LESSon in Greening Your Cleaning Routine

Burlap dress - see, I'm not that crazy.

Less is more. 

While I have yet to start wearing only burlap sacks, I have applied this rule to pretty much every area of my life, including my cleaning routine. Being ‘green’ to me often translates to using less. It means less chemicals in my food, makeup, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, countertop cleaner, laundry, dish soap…you get the idea. Fewer chemicals in all of these items not only mean fewer chemicals in my body, but also fewer chemicals in the air from the products themselves and the processes to make them. Simpler, more natural solutions often also mean energy savings because they do not require complex production methods. 

While you may be apprehensive to make the switch when it comes to something like your deodorant (although, you really shouldn’t be scared – I live by THIS product), start by swapping out your cleaning products for a natural, safe, and healthy home environment. Contrary to popular belief, in order for your home to be squeaky clean it doesn’t have to smell like bleach and suffocate you.  A quick online search for natural cleaning products will reveal the ‘magic’ ingredient I like to use in all of my homemade concoctions: vinegar. In fact, I found a website completely dedicated to the many uses of it. I have used vinegar solutions to clean everything from my windows and counters to my skin. One of the best parts about vinegar? It’s CHEAP.

Something I recently learned is that you can also use it to clean your washing machine! Clean the cleaning machine? Absolutely. Think of it how you do the lint trap in your dryer. Regular maintenance of your machines will help with functionality and {energy} efficiency. Follow these cleaning instructions from one of my guilty pleasure websites - Apartment Therapy.

Photo sources:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Solar And Water: A Growing Combination

*Editor's Note: I was cleaning out the SJVCEO blog archives last week and came across this draft post authored by the one and only Sandy Nax!  Going by the date of the draft I can only figure that Sandy had worked on this prior to his departure from SJVCEO in May 2012 and never had a chance to hit the 'publish' button. So, Sandy I hope you don't mind our using your words one more time!  -CBK

Many people equate solar power with rooftops, and that's true. More property owners - commercial and residential - are installing solar panels over their heads to cut power bills and carbon footprint. Check out what Toys 'R' Us is doing in New Jersey.

But solar energy is popping up all over the place. In backpacks. With the military in Afghanistan. On parking structures and as window coverings. And, increasingly, on or around water.

Solar is appearing at wastewater treatment plants, vineyard irrigation ponds and in settling ponds at gravel mines. There is even research into getting solar power from the ocean.

This New York Times story, which I read in the San Jose Mercury News, notes that solar panels are sitting atop pontoons at Far Niente in Wine Country. It quotes a winery official saying that vineyards are expensive real estate, and placing a solar array on the pond means no vines are removed.

Solar energy systems also are gaining a following at wastewater treatment plants here in the San Joaquin Valley, where power bills run high in the blazing summer.

The cities of Tulare and Madera use solar at their plants. Learn more about those projects here and here. Water transfer is expensive, and solar can help cut costs. We keep hearing that more cities are considering following suit. This Sign on San Diego story has more on how solar works at such plants.

Opportunities for solar will become even greater as technology improves, costs decrease and it becomes more mainstream. Water-related solar increases those possibilities even more.

Sandy's now in Sacramento working for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and still managing to write...a lot.  Seriously, Google it! 

Photo of solar on pond at Far Niente Winery by

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wax on, wax off

Photo source: Thomas Hawk, flickr

The current layer of dust enveloping my cute white Jetta had me thinking that I’m in serious need of a car wash. I used to live on the coast and recognize the importance of regular washings to protect the paint and keep that windshield clean. Living back in Fresno is a similar story but instead of salt water I battle pollen. Growing up I used to love washing the car with my dad in our front yard, but equally fun was going to Red Carpet Car Wash and trying to spot our station wagon through all the soap suds as the cars passed through the tunnel. It’s the little things, right?

Photo source:
While I love most things DIY, zipping over to the car wash is much easier these days since there are drive through options at most gas stations. I was also happy to discover that this method is much greener than doing it yourself at home. Hosing down your car at home can use up to 140 gallons of water whereas commercial car washes use an average of 45 gallons per car. In addition, commercial car washes are required by law to drain their wastewater into sewers ensuring that the water plus soap (read: chemicals) gets treated properly. We all (should) know by now that water use means energy use, so leave it to the pros (unless you’re a big spender and want to install one of these babies), save water, save energy, and save an afternoon for a different DIY project. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Can high GHG offsets make high-speed rail worth it?

Fresno D
I subscribe to a daily listserv from The California Business Climate Network which provides a daily round up of the most important stories that affect California and climate related issues.  It's sort of like the environmental version of my favorite news daily, The Skimm.

Last Wednesday the list serve featured a story from Environment and Energy Daily covering the state's projection that the high-speed rail line will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the first year of full operation.  According to the article the line will displace carbon emissions equal to 31,000 vehicles in the first year.

Upon reading that I thought, "that's great!" but I also commented to a coworkers that I have the equivalent to cars, equivalent to trees analogies.  As I've shared before I love me some hard numbers!  So, for those fellow data geeks here you go:

  • 4.5-8.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent divert by 2030*
  • 27.1-44.9 million tons of displaced carbon emissions by 2050*
Pretty impressive numbers.  But, because someone always thinks to ask, what about the emissions that will be generated constructing this line? The plan is that this line will eventually run 800 miles from Sacramento to San Diego, and according a report ordered by state lawmakers the first 29 mile leg is estimated to generate 30,107 metric tons of CO2e.  Now, I could call our newest team member, Sarah into the office to work this out for me (she does hold a MS in Applied Mathematics after all) but I think I can run the rough numbers on my own, so lets give this a try, shall we? For ease of my math I'm rounding and saying every mile built produces 1,000 tons CO2e in the process.  Given that, 

Well then.  Even if construction produces double the estimated 800,000 C02e there's still a huge rate of diversion of GHG emissions! 

There's a lot of controversy over high-speed rail.  Especially in our region, but on the value of GHG emission reduction alone it looks like a pretty good thing.  Additionally the state intends to buy renewable power to run the line with an assumed mix of 
  • 20% solar
  • 40% wind
  • 35% geothermal
  • 5% biogas converted
DISCLAIMER: The SJVCEO has publicly supported high-speed rail in California since 2008.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

LEDs and Utility Rebates: Save the Environment AND Cash Money!

The U.S. Green Building Council (or USGBC to yougreen-building aficionados) of Central CA chapter held a seminar at the Unitarian Universalist Church, the first LEED-certified building in Fresno. LED Lighting and PG&E Energy Efficiency Rebates Overview informed attendees of LED lighting benefits and how to work with PG&E to painlessly become more energy efficient daily. Who knew it could be so easy? 

George Burman, an electrical engineer and LEED Administrator for the UU church, began with a discussion of the science behind LED technology. I promise to refrain from getting too technical for those of you who, like me, tried very hard to understand concepts and do well in Physics, but just fail to completely absorb it. *insert ashamed face here*

Save the Environment

Unlike incandescent bulbs that produce light through heat generation, an LED has no filament. LEDs produce light by applying lots of energy to a semiconductor, which is then stimulated by the movement of electrons going from high to low energy levels. This process creates photons, or LIGHT! VoilĂ ! That wasn’t so confusing, was it? The only process that took LED manufacturers some time to develop was “white” LED light. The semiconductors are “doped” with an element, each determining a different monochromatic color. They found that combining red, blue and green LEDs produces “white” light, which explains the bluish or yellowish (red LED + green LED) tinges we see in most white LEDs. 

Photo Source: Christmas Designers
Now for the goods: LEDs have high efficacy (lumens/watt), long life (up to 22 years), small size, and come in millions of colors. They don’t emit infrared radiation and  ̶  here’s the huge plus  ̶  they don’t emit UV radiation either! So, inks and dyes in paintings, photographs, etc. fade at a much slower rate under LED light AND bugs are not attracted to it!

Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to incorporating LEDs into building design including the initial high cost. You also want to consider the poor color rendering index (CRI) of LEDs before replacing your existing lighting system. (The CRI determines how good colors in a painting, your clothes, etc. look under a type of light.) However, I think we can agree that the environmental pros of LED lighting outweigh the few cons, if we find integrating them to be in our budget of course!

Save Cash Money

Not this Cash Money?
Photo Source:
Jason Guenther, a Customer Relationship Manager at PG&E, concluded the evening with pinpointing effective solutions to managing one’s energy use. To do this, we first need to understand how we use energy daily. Everything from how long we use a hair dryer in the morning to leaving a toaster plugged in overnight contributes to excessive and unnecessary energy use. PG&E’s Customer Relationship Managers, like Jason, can perform audits or bill analysis. Once PG&E has adequately supplied you with information to understand how you use energy in your home or business, you can develop a facility energy management plan and implement PG&E’s recommendations, which fall under three categories: Permanent Energy Reduction, Savings by Design and Demand Response.

The first step for permanent energy reduction is to get an Energy Assessment. They are available onsite, by phone or you could even set up a DIY assessment on My Energy (who doesn’t like a good DIY project?).  Next, improve the efficiency of how something is used. For example, an office building’s AC system should be monitored. Not only are we generally more productive at a comfortable 77 degrees (see this Cornell study), but we shouldn’t waste energy turning a temporarily unused building into an igloo every night. Another solution is to purchase and install energy efficient products; you will receive rebates for doing so! You can also get money back for purchasing and installing energy efficient products through a customized retrofit (money back is determined case-by-case).

For those in commercial building construction and new building design, check out Savings By Design (SBD) Resources. This program offers incentives for new construction that exceed the latest version of Title 24. Note: DO NOT start construction before PG&E has approved your application. You won’t see those incentives if PG&E hasn’t approved you PRIOR to construction!

Finally, if you have a business, PG&E has Demand Response programs. These offer incentives for reducing a facility’s energy use during times of peak demand (hot day, statewide emergency or power plant failure). Turn things off that don’t NEED to be on during peak demand and receive an incentive? That seems like an easy choice… I do it. So should you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Statewide LG EE Best Practices Coordinator: Weekly Update Vol. VII, Issue II

For those of you who know who Pat Stoner is you likely are on his email distribution list and receive this update each week.  We are grateful that Pat has agreed to allow our little blog to re-post his weekly update.  If you have an interest in the happenings of energy efficiency and local government throughout California this is the update for you! If you love the information here, but want more in depth features be sure to check out Pat's quarterly newsletter, CURRENTS.  

UPDATE for JULY 10, 2013

The California Energy Commission Lead Commissioner on the Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) will conduct a workshop to discuss the definition of "Zero Net Energy" as it relates to newly constructed buildings in California.

Commissioner Andrew McAllister is the Lead Commissioner for the 2013 IEPR. Other commissioners may attend and participate in this workshop. Commissioners and staff from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) may also attend and participate.

In Person Attendance
Thursday, July 18, 2013, 9:00 a.m.
1516 Ninth Street, First Floor, Hearing Room A
Sacramento, California
(Wheelchair Accessible)

Remote Attendance
You may participate in this meeting through WebEx, the Energy Commission's online meeting service. Presentations will appear on your computer screen, and you may listen to the audio via your computer or telephone. Please be aware that the meeting may be recorded.
To join a meeting:

VIA COMPUTER: Go to and enter the unique meeting number: 923 288 296. When prompted, enter your information and the following meeting password: cec@0718

The "Join Conference" menu will offer you a choice of audio connections:

1.      To call into the meeting: Select "I will call in" and follow the on-screen directions.
2.      International Attendees: Click on the "Global call-in number" link.
3.      To have WebEx call you: Enter your phone number and click "Call Me."
4.      To listen over the computer: If you have a broadband connection, and a headset or a computer microphone and speakers, you may use VolP (Internet audio) by going to the Audio menu, clicking on "Use Computer Headset," then "Call Using Computer."

VIA TELEPHONE ONLY (no visual presentation): Call 1-866-469-3239 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada). When prompted, enter the unique meeting number: 923 288 296. International callers may select their number from

VIA MOBILE ACCESS: Access to WebEx meetings is now available from your mobile device. To download an app, go to

If you have difficulty joining the meeting, please call the WebEx Technical Support number at 1-866-229-3239.

For more information:
(If link above doesn't work, please copy entire link into your web browser's URL)

EXISTING BUILDINGS DRAFT ACTION PLAN PRESENTATIONS AVAILABLE from June 24, 25 and 28, 2013 Staff Workshops on The Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Program for Existing Buildings Draft Action Plan

For more information:

Per Decision 12-011-015, the “Decision Approving 2013-14 Energy Efficiency Programs and Budgets,” the Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) were directed to hire an expert entity to help design a comprehensive approach to the Workforce Education and Training issues (WE&T) inherent in their energy efficiency (EE) portfolios.  The IOUs are pleased to announce that the UC Berkeley Donald Vial Center was selected after a formal solicitation review process.

The statewide IOU team invites all interested stakeholders to a public workshop during which the UC Berkeley team will present their work plan, in response to the IOU’s requested scope of work.  Questions will also be welcomed.

Public Workshop:  WE&T Consultant Contract – July 29, 2013, 10:00 am – Noon
California Public Utilities Commission (Room TBD)
505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco  94102
Call-in/Webinar Details Will Be Provided

There will be a free one-hour webinar on Tuesday, July 16. It will feature best-selling author David Gershon who will share recent research and case studies on Addressing Climate Change through Community Engagement and Behavior Change.

Please note the start time in your time zone: 9 a.m. Pacific.

Register here:

David Gershon, co-founder and CEO of Empowerment Institute, is one of the world's foremost authorities on behavior-change, community engagement and large-system transformation. He is the author of 11 books, including "Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World," and the best-selling "Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds." He co-directs Empowerment Institute's School for Transformative Social Change, which teaches change agents to design and implement stakeholder engagement and behavior change initiatives.

The California Sustainability Alliance has released a Water-Energy Toolkit for Sustainable Development, a practical guide to implementing water-energy conservation policies and projects for local government, developers, water agencies and supporting parties.

The Alliance’s Toolkit is designed to provide four important stakeholder groups (water agency staff, policy makers, developers and water-energy conservation advocates) with the basic knowledge and resources needed to enable consideration of water-energy savings solutions in the community development process. Structured as an action-oriented and practical guidebook, the Toolkit offers simple steps, example roadmaps, and exemplary California case study examples of working projects to guide stakeholders through the key components of the water-energy sustainability decision-making process.
Download the toolkit for more details.

Check out OPR’s newest Climate Changers video: Crossing 400: The Keeling Curve Reaches a Historic Milestone. Ralph Keeling, geochemistry professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, talks about the @keeling_curve and a historic climate milestone: the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere recently exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in human history. Dr. Keeling explains the consequences of this, outlines solutions, and addresses why time is of the essence.

OPR has also recently uploaded several other new videos to our Climate Changers YouTube Site, an innovative video initiative to share hot lessons and cool solutions. We invite you to browse through our video library and to become a "climate changer" by joining us in working toward a more resilient California.

A new post by Severin Borenstein    
Sure, I'd like to see a tax on gasoline that reflects its greenhouse gases emissions. If we can't or won't do that, then maybe subsidies for electric vehicles can imperfectly address some of the same goals. If not that, how about free EV charging? Free parking? Higher speed limits for EVs? Discount air travel for EV owners? Complimentary massages? By the time you got to the last couple ideas, you probably said "well that's ridiculous."  At least I hope so. But where do you draw the "ridiculous" line? Click here for the whole post.

Also please visit Pat’s website:

Wellness Wednesday: Oh, behave!

Short and sweet one for you this Wellness Wednesday. I simply liked this article. Why? It talked about saving energy and healthy eating - the two topics that happily consume my life. How are these related? Well, definitely in more ways than one but they both start with behavioral changes.

And, just for a giggle...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Energy Efficiency & Behavior Change

I recently participated in a behavior change workshop put on by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in which ‘behavior programs’ were defined, various behavior theories were discussed, and practical examples of behavior interventions in relation to the world of energy were given in response to this white paper. A large disagreement was whether or not existing utility programs and CPUC driven efforts already incorporate behavior change methods. One of the presenters held a degree in Cultural Anthropology and as they introduced her there were laughs as it was proclaimed that not many Anthropologists can be found in the realm of energy efficiency. Without writing a novel, here are my two cents:

My degree is also in Cultural Anthropology (with a minor in Exercise and Health Science) and while many people always asked what I would do with ‘that’, I simply brushed it off because, while I do understand the limitations when it comes to certain professions, what can’t you do with a social sciences degree? I studied people around the world and my experience has built a foundation from which to listen and learn from a culturally diverse and sensitive perspective.  As a staff person at a non-profit and an entrepreneur with my health coaching business, I know the cornerstone of everything is communication. What do people need, what do people want, and what are the motivations behind these feelings? Recognizing that the answers will vary across continents, countries, states, cities, neighborhoods, and even individuals is the key to success for any business model or program.

People want someone to listen to them - to truly listen.
Image source:
It’s often that they don’t even want someone to solve their problems. They want a sounding board - a place in which they are comfortable to let it all out and a person who can lend an ear to empathize. When given an outlet like this, support, maybe a few suggestions, and the power to make decisions for themselves, people are more likely to act on whatever problem with which they are facing. Despite the abundance of technology that infiltrates our daily lives, we are still human beings at the end of the day. Let’s revisit these simple, common sense practices of face to face interactions, brush up on our listening skills, respect one another’s beliefs even if they aren’t like ours, and learn to work together as people and not as test subjects for products and programs. Technology changes and comes and goes, but people will always be people – I hope you see what I am getting at. Once you get back to basics, I am beyond optimistic and confident that you will start seeing the desired results in your chosen industry.

Energy efficiency enthusiasts, fellow Cultural Anthropologists, and all other SJVCEO blog readers, I would love to hear your comments on this subject and the white paper.