Blog: energy efficiency

January 15, 2014
Utilities - energy efficiency, GHG emissions, green local government, municipal facilities, water efficiency, water energy - California Sustainability Alliance

The path to sustainability is difficult. Collaboration and joint efforts can help ease our journey. To this end, leaders from water and energy utilities as well as representatives from local governments of Southern California recently participated in a roundtable to discuss the opportunities to support each other in their efforts to promote energy and water efficiency. The 2013 Utility Sustainability Roundtable, the fourth such event, addressed three main topics: The Water-Energy Nexus, Aligning City Planning and Utility Incentive Cycles, and Cap-and-Trade.

Starting with the Water-Energy Nexus, attendees identified finding ways to present both water and energy efficiency opportunities to customers simultaneously as key to increasing participation in these programs. Such joint marketing must be specific to the customer and therefore requires water and energy suppliers to work together to raise awareness about savings opportunities and available incentives in their overlapping service territories. Joint water-energy audits have also proven to be a successful way to coordinate for increased customer participation.

The discussion then moved to Aligning City Planning and Utility Incentive Cycles. Coordinated communications between utilities and local governments may allow more trust to build and incentive funding to better enable scheduled system renovations in municipal buildings.

The last discussion topic related to an emerging topic: Cap-and-Trade. A forward-looking concept was presented that provides a framework by which utilities might be able to put additional funds toward the energy efficiency projects of local governments in return for the resulting emissions reductions.

The study also highlights a couple initiatives that would help move the ideas discussed forward. Download  the full report for more details.

April 23, 2013
- built environment climate, climate change, commissioning, energy efficiency, federal action on climate change, GHG emissions, global action on climate change, global warming, green building, green local government, municipal facilities, RCx, real estate resources, retrocommissioning - California Sustainability Alliance

As part of its efforts to help local governments comply with federal and state retrocommissioning codes and policies, the California Sustainability Alliance (Alliance) has developed a Retrocommissioning Program Toolkit specifically for municipal facility use.

Retrocommissioning (RCx) is a method of systematically examining the operation and maintenance of an existing building’s systems in order to identify ways to improve overall building performance. It offers a relatively quick and low-cost way to help building owners ensure that energy efficiency features and equipment specified in the building design are installed and operating as intended - and as required to meet occupants’ needs. 

The Alliance created its RCx Program Toolkit to help local government staff develop and implement a municipal facility retrocommissioning program.  The RCx Toolkit complements existing portfolio management tools and utility management systems, helping the user take the “next step” once a decision has been made to incorporate retrocommissioning into municipal facility standard operating procedures.  Although focused on the performance testing and documentation components, the Toolkit also provides resources, such as model commissioning specifications, to facilitate the entire commissioning process.

In addition to a detailed step-by-step description of the RCx program development processes of planning and preparation, creating data infrastructure, and collecting baseline data, the Toolkit includes necessary tools and resources to implement the program such as:

  • Sample RCx Action Plan;
  • References to common RCx resources and procedures;
  • Model Request for Proposals (RFP) language;
  • The RCx Dashboard, a spreadsheet tool that allows the user to enter basic building information to identify potential RCx candidates and track RCx program accomplishments.

The RCx Toolkit is designed to be flexible enough to be a complementary resource for an energy manager in a large local government or to be the sole RCx Program management tool for facility and public works staff in smaller jurisdictions.  It may be used to facilitate RCx for an entire portfolio of buildings, or for a defined sub-group, such as all fire stations or libraries.  Alternatively, a subset of the Toolkit’s procedures can serve to guide local government staff through retrocommissioning those measures for which that team is responsible, or to provide to its maintenance contractor. 

Depending on a government’s specific situation, the RCx Dashboard can aid in prioritizing buildings and identifying RCx candidates.  Data or analyses from other tools such as the EPA’s Portfolio Manager or a utility management system also function to prioritize the buildings, in which case, the Toolkit can work as a complementary resource library and tracking tool.  For example, for planning a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system replacement, the Toolkit includes sample retrocommissioning RFP language to ensure the HVAC contractor performs functional tests and provides the required documentation to the project team.  For projects completed by internal staff, such as lighting replacements, the Toolkit’s RCx functional tests can be used to document proper installation and operation of the newly installed lighting system. 

September 21, 2012
Energy Efficiency - city of riverside, energy efficiency, film, video - California Sustainability Alliance

The California Sustainability Alliance and the City of Riverside have released a video showcasing the City’s award winning sustainability efforts. “The City of Riverside: Leadership in Sustainability” video highlights the unique local government leadership qualities that led the City of Riverside to win the Grand Prize of the Alliance’s 2011 Sustainability Showcase Awards. The video features some of the City’s best practices in sustainability and includes interviews with Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge, Public Utilities Commissioner Dr. Justin Scott-Coe, and Sustainability Officer Michael Bacich.
This video showcases several sustainability initiatives within the following areas: energy, water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, and alternative fuels and transportation. These initiatives include Riverside’s Free Sprinkler Nozzle Program, which provides efficient sprinkler nozzles to residents, and the City’s Grease-to-Gas program, which generates 1.6 MW electricity per day and saves Riverside more than $1 million annually in operating costs.
While the nuances of sustainability efforts are often complex, the video is presented in simple terms and is designed to appeal to a wide audience by featuring interviews with local residents and employees who are making sustainable choices in Riverside. The video provides examples, such as waterwise landscaping and edible gardens, that will inspire viewers to make smart sustainable choices in their everyday lives.

May 3, 2012
Built Environment - energy efficiency - California Sustainability Alliance
Keeping doors closed when air-conditioning is running can help California meet its energy efficiency goals.

Walking in any of California’s major retail zones (or in most of the U.S. for that matter), it is common to see inviting store fronts with highly planned out – even artful – window displays. There is little mystery or confusion about why retailers do this. They are designed to pique our interest, draw us inside and result in our making a purchase.

But, there is another part to the façade of any establishment that goes less-noticed, which is worth a look: The door. Barring severe weather, many retailers choose to keep their doors open during business hours—helping to make their stores even more accessible and inviting. This practice, however, has costs, both for the retailer and its customers. The costs are in the energy that is required to keep the store temperature at comfortable levels for both employees and shoppers.

In 2008, the shopping mecca of New York City passed a law requiring that retailers meeting specific criteria must keep their doors shut while the air-conditioning is running. ConEdison of New York helped to inform retailers of their role in energy efficiency by publishing The Price of Open Doors, a widely distributed informational flyer providing information on kWh and dollar savings, and the impact of lost energy in the region.

With all of this information, one could wonder why retailers simply don’t just close their doors and save energy? It boils down to today’s highly competitive retail environment; retailers have [legitimate] concerns that keeping the door closed will negatively impact sales. Doors create, quite literally, a physical barrier between potential customers and merchandise. And, to be successful, retailers must minimize barriers that keep “window shoppers” from turning into product purchasers. 

So, how can retailers reconcile aspirations to be environmentally responsible and drive sales? Two key starting point are:

  • Introduce a code– When local and/or state governments pass codes, as New York City did, a level playing field exists for retailers. Customers would be equally drawn into stores by the other merchandisingapproaches available, not though the doors being left wide open.
  • Turn it into a marketing opportunity – Nowadays, it’s quite common for retailers to publish their sustainability statement as a way of winning favor with their clientele. Retailers can use this environmentally-responsible action to their favor by informing current and prospective customers of the change—perhaps with a sticker on the door (that can only be seen when it’s shut) to remind customers of their commitment to sustainability.

Let us know what you think!

February 16, 2012
Energy Efficiency - energy efficiency - California Sustainability Alliance
Models include Energy Service Agreements and Energy Savings Performance Contracting.

In October 2011, Capital E for the Energy Foundation released the “Energy Efficiency Financing – Models and Strategies” report.  This report summarizes energy efficiency financing models and strategies that are applicable to industrial, commercial and residential sectors.   In preparing this report, Capital E ran a meeting with leaders from banks, industry organizations, project developers, and regulatory agencies.  The collaboration led to the design of new mechanisms for energy efficiency financing.

As stated in the report, the most cost-effective energy efficiency investments in the United States would be around $150 billion a year.  With this amount, within a decade, American residents and businesses would save $200 billion annually and create over a million full time jobs.  Current financing, however, totals only $20 billion, leaving approximately $130 billion of cost-effective potential investments unfunded. To close this gap, energy efficiency financing must become more mainstream and there must be some sort of standardization, such as green appraisal standards and performance data, for banks and financial institutions to compare.  Capital E has included multiple models and strategies in their report that will help create pathways to scaling energy efficiency financing from $20 billion to $150 billion annually. 


The models described in this report are analyzed according to funding sources, program structures, limits to scale, repayment vehicles, and project risks.  The models considered include:

Many advantages of these models include facilitated collaboration across numerous governmental departments, job creations, reduction of project risks, and removing of split incentives.  Disadvantages of a few models include state-level authorizations, funding limitations, higher transaction costs, and longer processes and negotiations.


The strategies in this report consider applicable building sectors, applicable models, level of establishments, growth potential, advantages, and disadvantages.   The report includes analysis of the following financing strategies:

  • Intermediary Aggregated Scale Purchasing
  • Revolving Loan Fund
  • Preferential Loans
  • Risk Reallocation
  • E-Loan
  • Point of Purchase Interest Rate Buy-Down
  • Re-Align Incentive Structures.

Certain strategies, such as unsecured consumer loans, have advantages like easier access to capital but have disadvantages such as higher interest rates.

The full report provides an overview of energy efficiency financing models and strategies.  It is important to understand and spread this knowledge because increasing energy efficiency financing will help businesses and residents reduce their energy costs, create more jobs, and improve air quality.

View the full report here to look more closely at the models and strategies included.