Energy Efficiency

We use energy every day in our homes and offices to power our lights, appliances, heating and cooling systems, and other electronic devices. Energy efficient practices allow us to enjoy the comfort and performance of these modern conveniences while keeping our energy use, and our utility bills, low. Upgrades can make a huge difference in your energy bills. Replacing an older, energy-intensive refrigerator with an efficient EnergyStar® rated appliance or outdated compact fluorescent bulbs with highly efficient LEDs are just a couple changes that produce drastic savings. Home weatherization improvements, like changing out single-paned windows with double-paned, offer better insulation and can reduce the costs of heating or cooling your home.  There is significant energy used in the transportation and treatment of water, reducing water waste helps us conserve the limited water we have, as well as save the energy needed to deliver it.  Switching to renewable energy, energy that comes from natural resources, such as sunlight, wind, water, biomass, and geothermal activity, can also reduce energy costs.

Making your home or business more energy efficient is easier than ever before with a variety of rebate and incentive programs. The following are quick and easy ways to improve home energy efficiency:

  1. Turn off lights, computers, appliances, TV’s, etc. when they are not in use.
  2. Use energy-saving light bulbs such as Fluorescent or LED bulbs.
  3. Close window shades during the summer to preserve a cool atmosphere indoors, and keep shades open during the winter to take advantage of the sun’s warmth.
  4. Use “Smart” power strips that don’t draw phantom energy when appliances are not in use.
  5. Invest in smart HVAC systems such as programmable thermostats, and install Energy Star appliances.
  6. Weatherize your home by making sure windows, insulation, doors, etc. are up-to-date and all air leaks are sealed.
  7. Install water-saving appliances, such as low-flow faucets and shower heads and water-efficient toilets.
  8. Wash only full loads of clothes in cold water and air dry on a drying rack.
  9. Replace/clean filters to improve air flow and prevent your appliances from overworking.
  10. Insulate your water heater and plumbing system.

Energy Action Plan

On February 12, 2019, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved the Energy Action Plan (EAP) as the County’s unincorporated area’s roadmap for expanding energy-efficiency, water-efficiency, and renewable-energy, and the cost-savings that accompany these efforts. The EAP was prepared by Sierra Business Council, and contains a three-year implementation action plan which includes the first year of direct assistance from an AmeriCorps CivicSpark Fellow to facilitate program actions through a community working group during the first year.

Nevada County’s EAP focuses on the unincorporated areas of the County. Nevada City and Grass Valley have adopted similar Plans in 2015 and 2018 respectively. The Town of Truckee is in the process of developing its own Climate Action Plan. Each jurisdiction’s plans have its own set of goals and actions to reduce emissions.

The full Nevada County Energy Action Plan can be viewed here.

Nevada County Energy Action Plan Goals and Strategies 

Goal 1: Energy Efficiency: Improve Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Facilities, and County Operations

Strategy 1.1: Expand outreach and education on existing energy efficiency practices, programs, and financing options for residential and non-residential utility customers.

Strategy 1.2: Improve compliance with current California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24, Part 6) by providing informational materials when available.

Strategy 1.3: Continue to increase the energy efficiency of County buildings, facilities, and operations.

Goal 2: Renewable Energy: Expand the Utilization of Renewable Energy and Resilience Measures

Strategy 2.1: Prepare for the inclusion of renewable energy systems in new construction and large retrofit projects in order to meet California Zero Net Energy Goals by providing informational material when available.

Strategy 2.2: Encourage renewable energy projects through education, outreach, and local leadership.

Strategy 2.3: Encourage energy storage and grid optimization infrastructure projects that support local renewable energy systems and community resilience.

Goal 3: Water Energy: Encourage the Efficient and Safe Transportation and Use of Water Resources

Strategy 3.1: Improve and increase the County’s outreach and education efforts in collaboration with Nevada Irrigation District and other water agencies by providing information on existing and future water efficiency and conservation programs.

Strategy 3.2: Coordinate with Nevada Irrigation District and other water agencies to participate in proactive leak detection programs in order to reduce water losses.

Strategy 3.3: Continue to improve the efficiency of County Wastewater Treatment operations and encourage and collaborate with Nevada Irrigation District and other water agencies to improve the efficiency of agency water operations.

Energy Forecasting 

In 2005, the Nevada County community consumed 349,789,663 kWh of electricity and 3,433,874 therms of natural gas. The Nevada County EAP forecasts that just under $46 million can be saved and kept within the community by 2035 within a 51% reduction in electricity and 30% reduction in natural gas.

EAP Chart

To achieve these savings, Nevada County EAP was developed to provide a broad view of energy use in the City, set energy and water-energy saving goals, recommend actions that result in short and long-term energy savings, and educate the community on existing resources designed to save utility customers money, energy, and water. By implementing this plan, the community could realize the following benefits:

  • Energy and Money Savings
  • Community Resiliency
  • Local Air Quality Improvements

Energy Efficiency Programs in Nevada County - See EAP Appendix E

The Energy Action Plan has many resources that residents can take advantage of to increase energy efficiency for their home, business, or schools. Check out these and see Appendix E for more programs.

Residential 

PG&E SmartRate (https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/rate-plans/rate-plan-options/smart-rate-add-on/smart-rate-add-on.page?WT.mc_id=Vanity_smartrate)

The SmartRateTM Plan is a financial energy-saving incentive for customers to help offset peak energy consumption in California. With SmartRate, electric rates are lower June 1st through September 30th, except on SmartDaysTM, which PG&E notifies customers of the day before in order to better plan shifting electricity use to avoid the higher rate period (2-7pm on a SmartDayTM). PG&E customers who add the SmartRate program to their account will pay a reduced rate in exchange for minimizing their electricity usage for 9 to 15 SmartDayTM days a year. Customers are encouraged to lower usage and collectively help conserve energy resources. With SmartRate automatic bill protection, the first summer is risk free.

Low-Income Programs 

PG&E Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP) (https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/save-energy-money/help-paying-your-bill/energy-reduction-and-weatherization/energy-savings-assistance-program/energy-savings-assistance-program.page)

PG&E’s Energy Savings Assistance Program provides income-qualified customers with energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Non-Residential Programs

PG&E Rebates and Incentives for Businesses (https://www.pge.com/en_US/small-medium-business/save-energy-and-money/rebates-and-incentives/product-rebates.page)

PG&E offers non-residential customers rebates and incentives for power management software, occupancy sensors on lights, steam traps, HVAC motors and pumps, electric water heaters, process cooling, data center airflow management, boiler economizers, refrigeration, boiler heat recovery, refrigeration control, VSD pumps, boilers and fans. A full list of current rebates can be found using the PG&E money back tool.

Financing Programs - See EAP Appendix F

Financing energy efficiency projects is consistently cited as the reason that many people do not implement projects. Here are a few financing options for your community, home, or business. A full list of resources are available in Appendix F of the Nevada County Energy Action Plan.

            Community-wide Financing Programs

            mPower (http://www.mpowerca.org/)

mPOWER provides fixed-rate, no money down financing to residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, multifamily, and non-profit property owners for energy efficiency upgrades, water conservation measures, and energy generation systems. Their goals are to lower energy bills, increase energy and water efficiency, reduce reliance on foreign fuels, stimulate the local economy, and reduce GHG emissions. mPOWER currently serves Placer and Nevada Counties, and the cities of Auburn, Colfax, Nevada County, Lincoln, Nevada County, Rocklin and Roseville. It also serves the Towns of Loomis and Truckee, as well as the County of Folsom in Sacramento County.

Residential Financing Programs

Energy Efficiency Mortgages (https://www.energystar.gov/newhomes/mortgage_lending_programs/energy_efficient_mortgages)

An Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) is a mortgage that credits a home’s energy efficiency in the mortgage itself. EEMs give borrowers the opportunity to finance cost-effective, energy-saving measures as part of a single mortgage and stretch debt-to-income qualifying ratios on loans thereby allowing borrowers to qualify for a larger loan amount and a better, more energy-efficient home.

Non-Residential Financing Programs

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) (https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.

Municipal Financing Program

California Energy Commission (CEC) Energy Efficiency Financing (https://www.energy.ca.gov/programs-and-topics/programs/energy-conservation-assistance-act)

The CEC offers school districts, charter schools, County offices of education, state special schools, and community college districts 0% loans for energy efficiency and energy generation projects. CEC offers cities, counties, special districts, public colleges, universities and public care institutions/hospitals 1% loans for energy efficiency and energy generation projects.

Implementation Resources - Appendix G

Want to learn more about energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy? Check out these resources for implementing projects!

Programs that cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water efficiency

PG&E Tool Lending Library (https://pge.myturn.com/library/)

Tool Lending Library: PG&E provides a library of tools that can be borrowed without purchase. The library includes data loggers, infrared cameras, and much more testing equipment for building energy efficiency.

Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative (SEEC) (http://californiaseec.org/)

SEEC provides no-cost resources to support the energy and climate initiatives of California Local Governments. SEEC provides the following at no cost: education and tools for climate action planning and reducing energy use, opportunities for peer-to-peer networking, technical assistance and recognition for local agencies that reduce GHG emissions, save energy and adopt policies and programs that promote sustainability, and demonstration that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” through leveraging resources and expertise from seven partners, to help local agencies. SEEC trainings and resources are tailored to the needs of California local governments and are available to representatives of local governments within California, as well as state and regional government agencies, districts, and school districts.

Institute for Local Government’s Beacon Program (https://www.ca-ilg.org/beacon-award-program)

The Beacon Program provides a framework for local governments to share best practices that create healthier, more vibrant and sustainable communities. The program honors voluntary efforts by local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and adopt policies that promote sustainability.

Community Working Group

A working group has been established to help implement community energy efficiency actions and educational outreach around existing energy resources in the community. The working group is comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders including: Nevada County officials and staff, local renewable experts, climate advocates, contractors, among many more. The working group meets the second Monday of the month from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. For more information contact Carissa Bradley, CivicSpark Climate Fellow at cbradley@sierrabusiness.org

Websites referenced:

City of Sonora Energy Action Plan website

Amador County Energy Action Plan website

City of Jackson webpage

Nevada City webpage

City of Plymoth webpage