Environment

SLO County is saving $600,000 a year with energy efficiency — and you can save, too

SLO County earns award for cutting electricity use by 15%

The Institute for Local Governments announced that San Luis Obispo County has earned a Gold Level Beacon Spotlight Award for Energy Savings for reducing its electricity use at public facilities by 15 percent since 2010.
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The Institute for Local Governments announced that San Luis Obispo County has earned a Gold Level Beacon Spotlight Award for Energy Savings for reducing its electricity use at public facilities by 15 percent since 2010.

The San Luis Obispo County government reduced its energy use by 15 percent since 2010 in its efforts to save money and reduce environmental impacts — leading to big savings.

The county currently spends about $4.5 million on electricity and natural gas every year. By taking on some simple and more complex projects to retrofit buildings, staff estimate the county is saving $600,000 to $700,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs.

Savings will likely continue to grow as the county approaches its goal to reduce energy at county facilities by 20 percent by 2020.

“Through the collection of data from our new energy management software and having the right team in place, we are in a position to recommend and implement future energy efficient projects which make the best use of our taxpayer’s money,” Colt Esenwein, county Public Works director, said in a news release.

Trevor Keith, director of the county Department of Planning and Building, said to get big savings, the county had to first spend money.

The county partnered with PG&E and San Luis Obispo County’s Energy Watch Partnership to use low-interest financing and utility rebates and incentives for a project that focused on upgrades to lighting, heating and cooling systems, plus energy control systems at several buildings, including the Government Center, the old county courthouse, the health campus on Johnson Avenue in San Luis Obispo and the County Jail.

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Much of the work the county has done can be translated to your home.

According to PG&E’s tips on saving money and energy everyday changes can make a difference — such as avoiding using the oven on hot days and turning off lights in rooms that aren’t in use. Others will take a bit more work, such as caulking gaps and cracks around door frames and windows to prevent warm air from entering your home on hot days.

Larger investments will make the best sense for North County residences, which often have high energy bills from air conditioning. People in hot climates can use outdoor awnings to protect their homes from hot sun or paint houses a light color to reflect heat, PG&E advises.

One of the biggest energy savers for the San Luis Obispo County government, Keith said, was changing out older incandescent lists to more efficient LED systems, which can easily translate to savings at home.

For its efforts, the county recently received a gold Beacon award from the Institute for Local Governments, which awards communities that are making a “holistic approach to addressing climate change,” according to the institute’s website.

Future upgrades include installing solar panels, energy storage technologies that help reduce peak-demand energy needs, upgrading thermostats, and replacing more light bulbs.

For more energy- and money-saving tips, go to www.pge.com.

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930; @MonicaLVaughan
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