California sets energy example
Hawaii takes a lesson from an agency that saved $4.8 million through conservation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. » When California environmental officials were looking at areas where the state could save on its energy bill, they only had to look as far as their own building.
Simply by shutting off the lights at night and having janitors do their work during the day, officials say they shaved 8 percent off the electric bill for the Joe Serna Jr. Building, the headquarters of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
But even a change seemingly as simple as that did not come easy. Workers initially resisted having janitors come through the office during the day.
"We just kept pushing. We weren't going to acquiesce," said Andrew Hurst, the agency's sustainable operations officer. "Thankfully, the leadership and the hierarchy within Cal-EPA saw fit to make it happen -- they didn't back down from the detractors.
"It's paying dividends now."
Implementation of the policy represents just one way the state is trying to set an example in conserving energy -- by testing and putting into place technology and policies that they hope others will adopt.
"We're willing to give them a try here in practice," Hurst said.
It's a model that Hawaii leaders hope to adopt in the islands.
"We wouldn't have any credibility if the state couldn't do it first," said House Energy Chairwoman Hermina Morita.
Setting an example for businesses and consumers to follow in terms of conserving energy is a key theme of the energy initiatives passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Linda Lingle.
It starts with state buildings, which now must conform to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standards, known as LEEDS, which are aimed at making buildings more energy-efficient through natural lighting, improved air flow and other engineering details.
Among other initiatives, counties are being asked to develop policies that would streamline the permit and approval process for projects that incorporate energy efficiency standards.
Leading by example is just one step in a strategy of conservation and development of renewable energy technologies aimed at reducing the state's dependence on imported fossil fuels.
"We are committed to being as efficient as possible and conserving as much as we can," Lingle said.
Such efforts are in clear evidence at the Cal-EPA headquarters.
The 25-story Serna building is nationally recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as a model for energy efficiency. It includes 42 engineering features designed to increase energy efficiency, and is being managed with 11 major policies aimed at increasing efficiency and promoting conservation.
It was the first project under a pilot program with the Green Building Council to adopt LEEDS concepts in existing buildings. After just three years, savings generated through reduced use of energy, water and waste costs was calculated at $4.8 million.
Additional electricity savings come through workers using only a fraction of available lights during the day, taking advantage of natural light and motion sensors that regulate use. A photovoltaic array on the mid-level rooftop generates about 55,000 kilowatt hours each year.
Other green aspects of the building relate to fixtures such as carpeting. Rolls were replaced with carpet tiles that use no glue and contain at least 52 percent recycled material. Unusable tiles must be recycled, and if a single tile needs to be cleaned, it can be removed and taken outside, where solvents and other cleaning agents will not affect air quality inside the building.
Aggressive programs have workers recycling about 200 tons of materials each year, resulting in few or no costs for waste hauling.
The Cal-EPA also works to promote a conservation mindset among employees by providing incentives for workers to use alternate means of getting to work, such as public transportation, carpooling, walking, biking or telecommuting.
Those programs, coupled with facilities such as showers and bicycle storage in the building, have led to 68 percent of the agency's employees using alternative forms of transportation, the agency said.
Hurst said the biggest challenge is persuading government officials to be far-sighted.
"If you do it up front, it pays dividends year in and year out," Hurst said.
Morita acknowledged as much.
"In anything we do in Hawaii, it's not going to be fixed in the Legislature overnight," she said. "These are long-term commitments.
"We always have to look at the end goal, and work our way towards that."