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Power Plug » Commercial The Flex Your Power Energy Blog Thu, 27 Jan 2011 18:29:08 +0000 en Commercial Buildings Guzzle 37% of California’s Energy Tue, 10 Aug 2010 22:56:57 +0000 George Chan (Image: Next 10) (Image: Next 10)

A recent study identifies commercial buildings as a stealth drain on the state’s energy resources and economy. The report, “Untapped Potential of Commercial Buildings: Energy Use and Emissions,” produced by Collaborative Economics for Next 10, finds that the energy efficiency or lack thereof in commercial buildings has a significant impact on California’s economy, the state’s overall energy use, global warming pollution emissions and jobs.

Some of the highlights of the study include:

  • Electricity consumed by commercial office buildings represents 37 percent of california’s total electricity consumption. Based on the U.S. average, energy efficiency improvements could cut that usage by 80 percent.
  • Only 60 percent of all new commercial building construction meets California energy efficiency standards. With a minimal two percent increase in construction costs, new buildings can be designed to use one-third to one-half less energy than they use today.
  • Energy efficient buildings retain higher real estate value, commanding higher rents (6-7 percent) and maintaining higher occupancy rates than less efficient buildings.
  • Simple energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings, such as insulating window films, yield three dollars in savings on average for every dollar invested.

“Up to 80 percent of the energy used by commercial buildings is going up in smoke,” said F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10. “As our state struggles to emerge from recession, relatively low-tech energy efficiency fixes could save California businesses and the state government significant money and help to generate jobs.”

This Summer, Save Money and Help Prevent Blackouts Fri, 25 Jun 2010 23:32:04 +0000 Megan Toth Keep cool this summer by sealing and weatherstripping against leaks.

As home and business owners across California prepare for the hot summer months, a growing number of individuals are getting on-board with Flex Your Power’s Flex Alert program. By conserving energy on hot summer days, Flex Alert participants generate up to 1,000 megawatts of conservation, equal to the output of a large power plant. This not only helps prevent blackouts, but also protects the environment by obviating the need for “peaker plants,” the dirtiest of power plants which utilities must use to meet demand when power systems are strained.

Residents and business owners alike can play a critical role in helping California save power on hot days. For businesses, some key steps to prepare for a Flex Alert include:

  • Enroll in a Demand Response Program. Demand Response Programs typically provide incentives and other benefits to customers who can reduce their power when energy supplies are low.
  • Improve your overall efficiency. Saving energy year-round means saving money year-round. You can find energy saving tips and recommendations in one of Flex Your Power’s Best Practices Guides. Or explore energy-saving tips for commercial and industrial facilities.
  • Check for any rebate or incentive programs in your area that can help you with your energy saving efforts.

Residents can also prepare for hot-weather days by following our summer energy-saving tips which include:

  • Perform a do-it-yourself home energy audit. Watch video >>
  • Use fans to make indoor temperatures feel cooler, most ceiling fans use less energy than a light bulb.
  • Have your air conditioning unit serviced to cut 15% of cooling costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and only cool the house when you’re home — It can save up to $160 per year and pays for itself in 6-9 months. Watch video >>
  • Sign up for Flex Alerts! In the event of a Flex Alert, be prepared. We will send you an email or a text letting you know that a Flex Alert is in effect and you can choose to draw-down power at your home or office.

In the event that a Flex Alert does occur, remember these important energy-saving actions:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, computers and appliances including decorative lighting or fountains.
  • Postpone using major appliances until after 7 p.m.
  • Turn your building’s air conditioning thermostat to 78° F or higher.
  • More tips (PDF, 60 KB)

Following these tips will not only save energy and help communities across California avoid blackouts, they will also save you money. Join the thousands of Californians working to save energy this summer and sign up to receive Flex Alert notifications via email or your mobile phone.

Lights Out for Earth Hour This Saturday Fri, 26 Mar 2010 19:57:27 +0000 Megan Toth

Join individuals around the world in celebrating Earth Hour by turning off lights, appliances and other electronics for at least one hour this Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. Started by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the annual event helps to raise awareness about global warming and demonstrate the collective power of simple, energy-saving actions.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, with 2.2 million homes and businesses switching off their lights for one hour. In 2008, participation rose with over 50 million people switching off their lights world-wide, and last year that number sky-rocketted to nearly 1 billion world-wide. Famous landmarks chose to go dark as well including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, the Parthenon and Acropolis in Athens, and more.

In the past, some cities have been able to cut electricity demand by 13% during those peak hours. Help your city make an impact by powering down at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Cities Suffering from Localized CO2 Domes Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:14:55 +0000 Megan Toth Photo: Flickr

A new study recently found that local carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may result in localized health and pollution impacts unrelated to global climate change. It is widely known that CO2 emitted in one city will eventually mix with CO2 emitted across the globe, contributing to an overall increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. As such, it doesn’t much matter where CO2 is emitted in terms of its contribution climate change. In contrast, the new study finds, CO2 may have direct local impacts on health and air pollution related to where CO2 is emitted and where its concentrations are highest.

While older research has found that local “domes” of high CO2 levels often form over cities, little was known about the health impacts of these domes. The study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” by Mark Jacobson of Stanford finds that local CO2 emissions may increase local ozone and particulate matter that contribute to respiratory ailments. The study also estimates that local CO2 emissions may increase premature mortality by 50-100 people per year in California and 300-1000 per year in the United States.

The study carries significant implications for cities where high amounts of CO2 and other pollutants are emitted, and bolsters the already compelling case for local action.

New Report Evaluates No-First-Cost Financing Strategies for Saving Energy Wed, 24 Feb 2010 20:50:36 +0000 Megan Toth

CalCEF Innovations, a branch of the California Clean Energy Fund, recently released its second white paper in its Energy Efficiency series: “Energy Efficiency Paying the Way: New Financing Solutions Remove First-Cost Hurdles.” The paper uses case studies to evaluate newly deployed no-first-cost financing options available to businesses and other entities looking to make energy-saving improvements. Intended for policy-makers, regulators, and private sector firms, the paper analyzes six programs including (among others):

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): Government programs, such as the highlighted Palm Desert, CA initiative, offer property owners 20-year loans for Energy Efficiency that are repaid through property tax assessments.

On-bill Financing: Loans for energy efficiency can be re-paid through the customer’s regular utility bill. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) offers on-bill financing.

These programs help customers overcome the initial financial barriers to otherwise cost-efficient upgrades. Paul Frankel, managing director of CalCEF Innovations explains, “We’ve uncovered a critical gap in the energy efficiency sector, where the deployment of retrofits is not at pace with the large potential for profits—both economical and environmental—due to a perceived cost-prohibitive barrier to entry. Energy efficiency can pay back three or four times on its investment in a relatively short time frame when strategic financing and aggregated deployment strategies are implemented.”

Governor Schwarzenegger Announces New Green Building Standards Code Fri, 29 Jan 2010 01:40:52 +0000 Megan Toth (Photo: Office of the Governor)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced recently that on January 1, 2011, California will adopt the nation’s first ever mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN) to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact in new California buildings. Under CALGREEN, every new building constructed in California will be required to reduce water consumption by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills and install low pollutant-emitting materials, in addition to other requirements. The regulations also call for mandatory inspections of energy systems such as heating, air conditioning, and mechanical equipment for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure maximum efficiency. The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons by 2020.

CALGREEN also includes more stringent voluntary provisions to encourage local communities to take further action to green their buildings and improve energy efficiency.

Many of the mandatory provisions in the code are already part of the statewide building code, making verification of CALGREEN an easy transition for local building inspectors. Additionally, building owners will enjoy the benefit of being able to label their facilities as CALGREEN compliant upon passing inspection, without using costly third-party certification programs.

Acterra Accepting Applications for Its 2010 Business Environmental Awards Wed, 16 Dec 2009 18:28:14 +0000 Megan Toth

The non-profit organization Acterra is accepting applications for its 2010 Business Environmental Awards. The awards recognize San Francisco Bay Area businesses and organizations for outstanding environmental leadership.

The awards are open to any private or public business entity, division or facility located in Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara or Santa Cruz counties. Awards are given in the following categories: Acterra Award for Sustainability; Commute and Transportation; Environmental Enterprise; Environmental and Sustainability Education; Pollution Prevention/Resource Conservation; and Sustainable Built Environment.

To apply: Applications are available for download at and the application deadline is January 22, 2010.

CEC Approves California TV Standards Fri, 04 Dec 2009 23:48:22 +0000 Megan Toth

In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the California Energy Commission (CEC) recently approved the nation’s first energy efficiency standards for televisions. The standards will be implemented in 2011 and will make new TVs sold in California the most energy efficient TVs in the nation.

After ten years, the Commission expects the regulations to save $8.1 billion in energy costs and save enough to power 864,000 single-family homes. Pacific Gas & Electric estimates that the standards will cut CO2 emissions by 3 million tons over a decade.

“The real winners of these new TV energy efficiencies are California consumers who will be saving billions of dollars and conserving energy while preserving their choice to buy any size or type of TV. Californians buy four million televisions each year and they deserve the most energy efficient models available,” said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas.

The standards mandate that new TVs must consume 33% less electricity by 2011 and 49% less by 2013, but will only affect TVs with screens 58 inches or smaller. For example, a 42-inch screen would consume 183 watts or less by 2011 and 115 watts or less by 2013. Stores will not be prohibited from selling existing stock of older televisions after the standards go into effect.

Strategic Energy Innovations Receives Award for Energy Saving Progams Fri, 06 Nov 2009 21:21:52 +0000 Megan Toth SEI helps empower schools, businesses and other groups to save energy and promote a healthy environment. (Photo: SEI)

Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI), a nonprofit organization centered in Marin, was recently awarded Marin Economic Commission’s 11th Annual Award of Excellence for Environmental Values and Resources for four of its K-12 programs. The programs, which number among a variety of services offered by SEI, promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while also educating students about environmental issues. Here is a brief description of the winning programs:

Awareness for Communities about the Environment (ACE): SEI’s ACE Program helps local businesses achieve long-term energy savings by providing no-cost energy consultation services and by shuttling businesses into free or reduced-cost retrofits. The program also incorporates an educational component, training local high school students to conduct energy audits, develop energy recommendations, and assist local businesses in accessing retrofits

Dixie School District’s ‘Go Solar’ Initiative: After a presentation by SEI with students to the Dixie School Board, the Dixie School District has decided to pursue their ‘Go Solar’ initiative to solarize the District’s four schools and administrative building. SEI and partners will help rollout the Go Solar effort across the District.

High-School Energy Efficiency Certificate: In conjunction with several partners, SEI has designed a high-school certificate in energy efficiency and renewable energy, giving students the tools to understand climate change and address the crisis. The goal of the program is to help interested students pursue green careers while instilling environmental values and knowledge.

Protect Your Climate (PYC) Curriculum: PYC, a 16-unit program designed for 4th and 5th graders, encourages students to inquire into why we need to protect our environment, and how to do so. The program has not only helped youth understand climate change, but has also helped Marin residences realize substantial money and energy savings through PYC’s school campaigns.

e-Newswire Sign-Up Contest Continues, Congratulations to First 6 Winners Tue, 25 Aug 2009 22:30:07 +0000 Megan Toth

Congratulations to our first six winners! Flex Your Power is holding an e-Newswire sign-up drive and contest, and we have already given away six of our ten no-cost tickets to West Coast Green. That means there are still four tickets left, so stake your claim! Sign up three friends for e-Newswire and you will receive a no-cost floor pass to the 2009 West Coast Green conference in San Francisco this October (normally $45 in advance, $50 at the door).

Simply ask your friends to write “Referred by your email address” in the “How did you learn about e-Newswire?” box when they sign up, and we will tally the numbers. Tell your friends to sign up today: and don’t miss out on the chance to see the great exhibits at this year’s West Coast Green.