For the second year in a row, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has proclaimed October as “Energy Awareness Month,” highlighting the county’s commitment to promoting responsible and efficient energy use and encouraging citizens to do the same.
Supervisor Salud Carbajal, board chairman and sponsor of the proclamation, said, “Energy Awareness Month reminds us of the importance of understanding our diverse community’s energy needs as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels and invest in the development of alternate energy sources such as wind and solar.”
To celebrate, the county hosted a “Fuel Up Station” outside the Board of Supervisors’ hearing room, which offered coffee and information on a wide range of energy initiatives led by various county departments.
For example, the county’s General Services Department is working to reduce electricity use in county facilities by 25 percent by 2020, including plans to install energy efficient exterior LED lighting. General Services also has seen impressive energy and cost savings from recent installations of solar photovoltaic systems at county facilities, such as the Emergency Operation Center. In fact, a 1-megawatt solar system installed in 2012 off Calle Real is producing 7 percent more power than expected and is anticipated to save $12 million in electricity costs.
The Public Works Department, Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division, administers the Green Business Program, a partnership that provides free assistance to organizations taking actions to prevent and reduce waste, purchase environmentally friendly products, save energy and water, and reduce pollution. Businesses that implement certain mandatory and a minimum number of voluntary measures in these areas are certified as “green” businesses.
In addition, the Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division is also going through environmental review of the Resource Recovery Project, which would revolutionize how the community’s trash is managed. This project is proposing a set of facilities that would sort through trash that is currently buried at a landfill, pulling out recyclables to market and organics to be anaerobically digested. The organics would produce compost, soil amendments and enough green energy to power over 1,000 homes in the community. The division also oversees the Laguna County Sanitation District, which installed a 1-megawatt solar system in 2012, reducing the district’s power demand by 65 percent.
The Planning Department is not only preparing to enforce the state’s new Title 24 energy efficiency standards in January, but received board direction this year to seek environmental review on a strategy that would achieve 15 percent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including efforts to lower traditional energy consumption. Additionally, Planning’s Innovative Building Review Program provides green building advice and permit incentives to property owners undergoing remodels and new construction.
The county’s Community Services Department operates the emPower program, which has helped more than 3,300 individuals with their home energy improvement questions and needs. Since January, more than 130 homeowners have taken advantage of the program’s free Energy Coach home visits as an easy way to get started on their home upgrade. Since its launch in late 2011, the program has connected over 450 homeowners with qualified contractors who can perform the improvements that are eligible for generous rebates and low cost emPower financing.
To date, over 60 home energy projects have been completed, with many more in progress, resulting in more than $2 million in project income for local participating contractors.
In addition, emPower has offered over 30 trainings for hundreds of local building professionals to increase awareness about energy efficient construction practices. In June, emPower received funding and approval to work toward expanding its services to Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
To learn more about common home energy problems and solutions, watch emPower’s new "Good Energy" videos featuring the Energy Coach. For more information about Energy Awareness Month events, tips on saving energy or to speak with a representative of emPower, call 805.568.3566 or click here.
— Stacy Miller is a publicist representing emPower Santa Barbara County.