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County Promotes Conservation During Energy Awareness Month in October

For the third year in a row, the Santa Barbara County supervisors have 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. The resolution was passed and read at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

“Energy efficiency and renewable energy development can offer great benefits to homeowners and businesses while also providing employment and economic opportunities,” said Angie Hacker, program manager for the county’s emPower program.

To celebrate energy awareness month, emPower Santa Barbara County will host a “Fuel Up Station” outside the Board of Supervisors’ hearing room on Oct. 21 to provide coffee and information on a wide range of energy initiatives led by various county departments. Residents will also be able to get started on making their homes more efficient at the Oct. 23 Energy Efficient Furnace Workshop at the Minami Community Center, 600 W. Enos Drive in Santa Maria, at 5:30 p.m. The workshop and dinner will walk people through the steps to choosing a new furnace.

As noted in the proclamation, Santa Barbara County has a long tradition of environmental stewardship and is utilizing numerous programs to promote responsible and efficient energy use within county government and among residents. 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 has also 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 which 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 county’s Community Services Department operates the emPower program, which has helped nearly 7,000 interested customers with their home energy improvement questions and inquiries. Since January 2013, over 325 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 700 homeowners with qualified contractors who can perform the improvements that are eligible for generous rebates and low cost emPower financing.

To date, over 350 home energy projects have been initiated. Projects associated with emPower loans show an average of 30 percent energy savings. In addition, emPower has offered 47 trainings for hundreds of local building professionals to increase awareness about energy efficient construction practices. In July, the emPower program expanded to Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.

For Santa Barbara County property owners that are undergoing building efficiency improvements on new or existing developments, the county’s Planning Department also provides several land use incentives, such as reduced plan check fees, through its Smart Build Santa Barbara program.

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.

— Amy Bernstein is a publicist representing emPower Central Coast.

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