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San Gabriel Valley Partnership

An Energy Wise Future for Thirty Southland Communities

By Lisa Lilienthal

It's the home of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, Cal Tech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Now the San Gabriel Valley is about to add another feather to its cap, as 30 of the region's cities have united with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) and Southern California Edison to form the "San Gabriel Valley Energy Wise Partnership."

The partnership was created in response to the California Public Utilities Commission's 2005 decision to invest $3 billion in energy efficiency studies. It began officially in March and is off to a running start.

SCAG is the largest of nearly 700 councils of government in the United States, encompassing a population exceeding 18 million people and over 38,000 square miles. SGVCOG advocates to improve the quality of life for 30 cities in the Valley, and SCE, one of the nation's largest electric utilities, offers customers more alternative and renewable energy (17.7 percent), from a greater variety of resources, than nearly any other utility in the world.

According to Brad Bergman, senior project manager for the Intergy Corporation, a facilitator of the partnership, the ambitious plans center around a goal to reduce annual energy usage in the valley by nearly 3 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) by the end of 2008. Through a combination of outreach programs to local governments, business and residents, training and technical assistance, the partnership aims to realign the region's infrastructure towards sustainable, comprehensive, long-term solutions.

"We've already identified 2.5 million kWh in savings projects that should be completed by the end of 2007," said Bergman. He admits that the first projects in the pipeline are the ‘low hanging fruit' – or the projects for which there is a quick and easy fix;  projects to replace inefficient lighting or antiquated HVAC systems in municipal facilities. However, the cumulative impact of that low hanging fruit is enough to bring the partnership close to its goal, one year ahead of schedule. And, it provides an incentive for more far-reaching programs aimed at helping these California cities improve their energy profile and their bottom line.

"Most cities are very enthusiastic about ideas that benefit the environment and the community," said Bergman. "But sometimes there is difficulty in finding the funding to get it all done."  That's where the partnership comes in. Southern California Edison's investment is a rebate of $.10/kWh for lighting projects and $.14/kWh for HVAC projects. Due to the longer payback of HVAC projects, the rebate is higher. And the California Energy Commission has a special, low cost loan program that helps cities bear the financial burden.

The incentives are working. The City of West Covina is upgrading HVAC systems at the city hall and police department with two new chillers which, according to Public Works Project Supervisor Mike Shott, should save 400,000 kWh annually and shave about $100,000 off the city's annual electric bill. "At that rate, the project will pay for itself in about seven years," said Shott.

Financed with a 15-year loan from the California Energy Commission with a low 3.95 percent interest rate, the project is nearing completion. Following close on its heels is an RFP that Shott is about to issue for 250 megawatts of solar power.

The City of Alhambra is investing in a comprehensive retrofit of its city hall and police department headquarters, having identified potential savings of 861,000 kWh and annual savings of $163,000. The $512,000 price tag might have been hard for the city to justify, but the partnership rebates make it achievable.

In addition to identifying quick fix projects that qualify for the utility rebate, the partnership is committed to targeting two to three cities in the region for a comprehensive city facility energy efficiency project analysis – an audit with technical and financial analysis on how the city can make short and long term investments that will reap big pay offs in energy savings.

Energy action plans for these cities will explore tried and true technologies like solar and demand response, while more cutting edge solutions such as self generation strategies will also be investigated.

The short list of cities who may qualify for the comprehensive audit includes South Pasadena, Monrovia, Monterey Park, La Canada and Flintridge. "We'll finalize the list of cities by the end of July and complete energy action plans by the end of 2008," said Bergman. "The goal is for these cities to become not only a model but a roadmap for the rest of the cities in the region."





























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