Category Archives: Commercial Programs

Energize Richmond!

“This program has been great; we have new bright lights and better motors in the cooler—all for free!”

-Anees Ali,  U.S. Liquor and Market

Twenty-third Street in Richmond holds many great restaurants and small businesses serving the predominantly Spanish-speaking community surrounding it. The Street’s Merchant’s Association is renowned for its annual Cinco de Mayo event each year, to be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 7.

The neighborhood is struggling, though, and needs all the support it can get. CESC is getting involved through a new campaign to help Richmond merchants save energy.

Energize Richmond is taking advantage of the small commercial program East Bay Energy Watch (EBEW), funded through PG&E and MCE, which helps businesses install new upgraded lighting and refrigeration equipment to become more energy efficient and reduce utility costs. The City of Richmond is supporting EBEW to increase small business participation by covering merchants’ costs through a City of Richmond grant from the Environmental and Community Investment Agreement (ECIA). Because of all the small businesses there, the East Bay Energy Watch and our partner contractors have been spending a lot of time on 23rd Street!

Through Energize Richmond, U.S. Liquor and Market has received new motors and controls for its refrigeration system and new LED lighting inside and out, improving the look of the store and brightening the exterior walkway for safety. More than 100 businesses will eventually participate, with 50 projects already under way. EBEW is distributing the funds on a first-come, first-served basis until the grant funds are distributed.

A nonprofit organization, CESC has delivered energy, environmental and home repair services to Bay Area residents since 1986. Funding from MCE and from EBEW, our commercial energy efficiency program, cover the administrative, marketing, and technical assistance for the campaign, with some rebates to help cover the project costs. The City of Richmond then helps by covering the small gap costs not covered by the rebates.

These energy-efficiency projects are now available at no cost to Richmond businesses! Through this great partnership, the smallest, most vulnerable business can now participate. Businesses can take control of their energy use, improve lighting for public safety, and become sustainable. CESC has been marketing this program through influential business groups like the Richmond Main Street Initiative.

“The Energize Richmond Campaign is a great resource for our businesses to improve their facilities and save money. We are happy to partner with CESC to publicize this great opportunity for Richmond Main Street property owners and businesses.”

—Amanda Elliott, Executive Director, Richmond Main Street Initiative

Do you know a business in Richmond that could benefit from a free energy assessment? Call EBEW today! 

Hello! I’m Your Energy Manager

By Michael Denevan, Program Manager, Your Energy Manager
Senior Project Manager, SmartLights

If you’re someone who pays the utility bills at home, you may have learned to take simple measures (like turning the heat down or weatherstripping doors) to reduce your energy consumption. Many large commercial facilities have a full-time Energy Manager to oversee the building’s energy and HVAC systems. But what about smaller businesses who can’t afford to pay someone to take care of their energy system?

Beginning this month, CESC’s Your Energy Manager program can help small- and medium-sized businesses get a handle on the amount of energy they are using—and the amount they are paying for utilities.

To qualify, businesses must have an energy demand of less than 200 kilowatts of electricity, which is significant but not huge. As a comparison, most homes have a demand of about 4-6 kilowatts of electricity, and a small restaurant might need 10-15 kilowatts. After a successful pilot project that ended in August of last year, we’re relaunching the program now.

Our First Customer

We’re starting with a small business of a type that may be familiar to a lot of you–a motel. This El Cerrito-based business uses a fair amount of energy to light, heat, and cool motel rooms. After analyzing their current energy usage for lighting, we installed over 400 new energy-efficient bulbs, LED A-19 lamps for their rooms and exterior walkways. This single switch could save them 11,169 kwH per year. 

After examining usage for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), we also installed new wireless thermostats and controls for 30 PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) units. PTAC units are the all-in-one small heating and air conditioning units that you see under the window in motels and hotels. We installed occupancy/sleep sensor controls; these sophisticated controls work slightly differently from simple motion sensors. They sense when the room is occupied, even if the occupants are sleeping. These devices allow the PTAC units to turn off automatically when the room is not occupied, saving motels a lot of energy.


YEM provides a comprehensive solution for businesses that can go beyond rebates; it might include HVAC improvements and analysis of larger systems. For example, if we see that a business’s compressor is inefficient and needs a tune-up, but there’s not a rebate available for a new one, the program can still recommend maintenance or replacement and can project  the energy savings. YEM is a smart complement to CESC’s program SmartLights, which focuses on energy savings that can be achieved through measures that qualify for a rebate, typically lighting.

For YEM projects, CESC provides free auditing and consultation. The customer pays for parts and installation minus the rebate, which in some cases covers the entire cost. In those cases, CESC will enlist the SmartLights program to act as a project manager and provide quality assurance.

My Favorite Part of the Job

My favorite part of the job is interacting with customers, especially after the work has been done. I like seeing how the work has improved the business’s lighting and space, and of course I like the energy savings. At the beginning of the project, we give the client a rather abstract picture of what will happen: “This is what you will likely experience.” The actual results, which are so tangible, are very satisfying.

Saving Energy in Surprising Places

Something many small businesses can benefit from is maintenance of their rooftop air handling units. These units, as you might expect from their name, control the air that goes into and comes out of the building. Typically, the temperature of exhaust is closer to the desired temperature than the new air being pulled in (which is either too hot or too cold). A device on the unit called an economizer can help the system save energy by recirculating some of the ventilated air while maintaining enough fresh air for health needs. Yet on most systems the economizer breaks after just a few years, and the building occupants are not aware of this malfunction and the energy that is being wasted.

Through YEM, we can replace these economizers and install more advanced controls. It’s a chance to fix and enhance the system for a low cost, or sometimes no cost at all, if the measures qualify for rebates.

Do you know a business that might benefit from an analysis of their energy usage? Contact CESC’s Your Energy Manager program.


East Bay Energy Watch 2017


Hitting the Ground Running

On Tuesday, February 28th, the new East Bay Energy Watch program launched, a partnership between CESC and DNV GL to offer businesses in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties opportunities to install energy efficiency upgrades while receiving technical assistance, project management and rebates.

DNV GL offices were packed with electrical contractors as well as PG&E, MCE Clean Energy, local government and program staff at the contractor training; they met to discuss best practices for the New Year. Although the program launched only recently, it already has many customers who have received lighting upgrades to LEDs, and many more installation projects in the pipeline.


History of Success

Previously, East Bay Energy Watch was the name for one of 21 local government partnerships between PG&E, local municipalities, and energy efficiency programs. EBEW programs and services are funded by California utility ratepayers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The East Bay partnership was the first in California, beginning with PG&E’s partnership with first just the City of Oakland before expanding to all of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.  

CESC’s SmartLights program began work in Berkeley in 1998, expanding to neighboring cities in 2000. DNV GL’s BEST program began work in Oakland in 2002. In 2004 with funding from PG&E, SmartLights and BEST began offering services to small businesses in all of Alameda and Contra Costa County. The programs each had their own geographic territory, which reduced direct competition and allowed a complementary relationship to develop over the years.

SmartLights and BEST are based on different program models. SmartLights has energy assessors who provide turn-key services and start-to-finish support for small businesses. BEST works primarily with electrical contractors, providing them with the resources they need to market energy efficiency retrofits and deliver large energy savings. Yet both models have been highly successful – together SmartLights and BEST have saved local businesses more than 200,000 megawatt hours over the last 15 years in the East Bay!



For 2017, BEST and SmartLights programs are bringing their strengths together to form a single program, East Bay Energy Watch. For local businesses and contractors this collaboration will mean:  

 * One program offering throughout Alameda and Contra Costa County
* Streamlined and simplified paperwork for projects
* The ability to work with both DNV GL engineers and SmartLights energy assessors 
* Fast processing of rebates

Providing rebates and technical assistance for lighting retrofits, commercial refrigeration motors and controls, as well as heating, ventilation and air condition controls, EBEW is the new one-stop shop for businesses to take control of their energy use, reduce their costs, and improve operations.

Do you know a business that could use help with a lighting or motor upgrade, or is interested in learning about how they can be more energy efficient?

Contact EBEW today!  
(800) 576-6405
East Bay Energy Watch

Lighting the Way

When SmartLights Outreach Specialist Evan Riter gets a lead on a business that may be interested in saving energy and money, he’s immediately on the case. He’s eager to spread the word about saving energy, saving money–and making it happen for small and medium-sized businesses.

CESC’s SmartLights program is designed to help Bay Area businesses use energy more efficiently. This program offers free start-to-finish technical assistance and instant rebates, paid for by PG&E and MCE Clean Energy as directed by the California Public Utilities Commission, to help defray the cost of upgrading or repairing existing equipment. SmartLights can help with comprehensive lighting retrofits, refrigeration tune-ups, controls, and seals replacement, and referrals to appropriate HVAC programs. But some jobs are as simple as replacing out-of-date lighting with the newest, most energy-efficient lighting, LEDs.

Once Evan has a conversation with a potential client, he finds it pretty easy to convince the business owner or manager to participate in SmartLights and upgrade lighting or other energy-using appliances in their business. The decision means better lighting and lower energy bills.

Evan especially likes it when a SmartLights job is simple enough that he can handle it himself, rather than bringing in an in-house or external contractor. It means that he can make sure the customer is satisfied, because he is there in person gauging reactions, and he conducts a brief interview on the spot to find out if they are satisfied. He also leaves the client with his contact information and lets them know they are able to call him at a later date to fix anything that they are not happy with.


“I have a background in lighting. I designed and built exhibits for museums for about 25 years. I’ve also worked with live theatre doing lighting, so I understand some of the more esoteric concerns of businesses like beauty salons or art galleries. They are very concerned with color temperature (the warmth or coolness of the light), beam spread or width, and other lighting issues that influence the atmosphere of the business. I’m able to ask the right questions to understand what they need so that the project can go as smoothly as possible.”

On a few occasions, especially with hair salons, he has received a follow-up call about the quality of the light emitted by the new lightbulbs. What first seemed just right has become, after a week or two, too bright or harsh. In these cases, Evan happily returns and trades out the unwanted bulbs for those with a softer or warmer tone. That’s something that some contractors may not be  willing to do.

Evan notes that aesthetically inclined clients love the results they are getting. ‘I did a job at an art gallery in Sausalito called Galerie Elektra. Galerie Elektra cut its electricity bill in half. We replaced MR16s, little tiny round halogen bulbs that give out bright light, with LED equivalents. There was a lot of savings, because each of those bulbs was 50 watts. We replaced them with bulbs that were about 7 watts each. When you’re talking about over 100 bulbs, the savings adds up.”

Evan sometimes gets turned down, perhaps because some people suspect it must be too good to be true. However he is so persistent that most of his contacts turn into clients. The work is usually almost free to them, since the reimbursements typically cover the cost of the new lighting. And the savings are impressive. “The more they do, and the greater the difference between what they had and what they’re getting, the more savings they get. We do sometimes replace CFLs, because, depending on quantity, switching to LEDs can still add up to a pretty nice savings per month.”

Do you know of a business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Call Evan! at SmartLights.

Verde Elementary School Sees the Light

Energy Conservation Program Manager Julio Arroyo is always looking for ways to save energy for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. When Julio found an opportunity to implement a major lighting retrofit at Verde Elementary School with the help of the SmartLights Program, he knew taking the opportunity was the right decision.

Verde Elementary is a K-6 school in North Richmond situated on 8 acres of land, with an enrollment of about 320 students. On the school’s website, Principal Eric Acosta-Verprauskus describes the environment as “a collaborative network of thinkers focused on high achievement and embracing the whole child so that students grow academically and socially in a safe and positive environment to become college graduates, leaders, and lifelong learners.” CESC has collaborated in the past with Verde Elementary via the Family Sustainability Project. The school has been a destination of the Prescott-Joseph Center’s Breathmobile ®, which refers clients to our Healthy Homes Program.

Next it was time for CESC to help improve the school’s energy efficiency. The SmartLights Program performed a lighting assessment for the school and put together a detailed report outlining the projected cost, rebate and energy savings of the project, as well as the recommended lighting replacement measures. Contractors then came in and installed the lights to specifications, with the school receiving an up-front rebate to reduce the cost. Now, the school has replaced its fluorescent lights with new, energy-efficient lighting in its gym, classrooms, and library. The exterior and parking lot lighting was also replaced, a change which Julio explained “adds an element of safety for our maintenance staff that we didn’t have before.”

Julio Arroyo showing off new library lighting at Verde Elementary School

When you tour the newly lit school grounds, the impact of the bright, uniform lighting is immediately clear. Julio was particularly pleased with the new look of the library, which the lights show off to great effect.


Julio appreciated the instant rebates that SmartLights offered, which “allowed us to put more energy efficiency measures into place.” Thanks to the new, efficient lighting system, the school will now save an estimated $13,766 per year on its energy costs, a win for the district and a win for students.

Do you know of a school or business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Contact SmartLights now!

Society of St Vincent de Paul Shines a New Light

Executive Director Melanie Anguay at the Society's thrift store

Executive Director Melanie Anguay at the Society’s thrift store

The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Pittsburg needed help last year with their building’s lighting. Dark corners and inconsistent exterior lighting compromised the facility’s safety, and the lighting inside had been replaced haphazardly over the years, making for a hodge-podge of different lighting types and color temperatures throughout the building.

“For us, lights equal safety,” Executive Director Melanie Anguay explained. With children on site in the daytime shelter, it was especially important to illuminate every dark corner in the building, and strong exterior lighting was needed to ensure that community members felt safe coming to the site for services. The on-site free health clinic also needed better lights for the healthcare professionals to do their work in.

When the Society added 400 square feet and needed to outfit the new space with energy-efficient lighting, they decided to take this opportunity to retrofit all of the center’s lights. Yet the Society needed help executing a large-scale lighting project. “We don’t have a facilities manager,” Melanie explained, “so things like this are hard to implement on our own.” CESC’s SmartLights program came to the rescue and helped the Society complete the project from start to finish, with a project manager to count the lights and suggest replacements and create a report to show the projected cost and energy savings.

Initially, Melanie was skeptical that the SmartLights program was for real. “It seemed too good to be true,” she explained. However, after exploring our website and reading stories of people we’ve helped, Melanie decided to move forward with the lighting project.

Melanie with St Vincent de Paul staff under the new lights

Once the project was approved, SmartLights replaced 121 fixtures with efficient LEDs, improving the facility’s lighting and saving the nonprofit over $300 a month on energy bills. SmartLights also provided a rebate to offset the cost.

Melanie was impressed with the contractor’s commitment to providing lighting that met the Society’s needs; he “helped us find the right lighting for our building,” she said. Melanie was also impressed with the HVAC services she received. “[The contractor] was professional and explained things clearly. I don’t have any HVAC experience, but thanks to [the contractor’s] explanation I was able to understand the purpose of the equipment. He even let me watch him install the controller. That was a fun learning experience that I’ve never had the opportunity to do in the past!” From a cost standpoint, Melanie was able to present the detailed, readable SmartLights report to her board with the return-on-investment figures, or ROI, right on the front page.

Nurse treats patient in the brightly lit exam rooms

Nurse treats patient in the brightly lit exam rooms

Touring the St Vincent de Paul facilities, Melanie pointed out the many changes to their facility thanks to the new lights. The exterior of the building is now well lit, as are the medical examination rooms, the thrift store warehouse, the dining room, and the offices. “It’s nice to know that there are no dark corners,” she says. Melanie is happy she found us: “There are so few companies that provide this type of service. Your organization went above and beyond.”


Lighting up Marin County Schools

CESC’s SmartLights program has made its reputation helping small businesses reduce their energy use, but schools, like businesses, use energy and worry when energy bills rise too high.

CESC recently had the opportunity to reduce energy use at three schools in Marin County’s Ross Valley School District: White Hill Middle School and Manor Elementary School in Fairfax, and Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo.

ross-valley-schools-statsWhen Bret Joyner, Director of Maintenance and Operations for Ross Valley School District, saw new bright lights installed in Redwood High School’s gym (LED sport high bay fixtures), he knew he wanted those same lights for Manor Elementary School, one of the schools in his district right down the street from Redwood High. Bret had looked into upgrading to LED lights several years ago, but wasn’t able to move forward with the project because the new lights were just too expensive. This time, though, he found the price of LEDs had come down significantly. Thanks to rebates from the SmartLights program, the project was even more affordable.

white-hill-gym-lightsThe retrofit at Manor Elementary, completed with the help of a rebate through SmartLights, was a success. Before the upgrade, Bret said,“People had been playing basketball in the dark—and the lights were on!” Thanks to the improved lighting, the school’s young athletes can see the court like never before. The new linear LED high bay lights are covered with a metal guard to protect against errant basketballs. The low-wattage lights are also saving the school approximately $1,000 a year. The change, Bret says, was immediately noticeable: “It was an amazing difference.”

Hidden Valley Elementary School’s gym is also looking brighter and saving energy thanks to the SmartLights program. The gym originally had metal halide lamps. SmartLights upgraded the lighting to low-wattage tubular LEDs (or TLEDs) on individual motion sensors which turn on only when the space is in use.

Joyner explained that this change means huge energy savings: before the retrofit, the lights were left on a lot, sometimes from 7 in the morning till 10 at night. Now, they are on about four hours a day, based on actual use. Bret notes that the gym also looks much brighter with the new lights: “It’s a significant difference.”

white-hill-hallwayAt White Hill Middle School, SmartLights changed out fluorescent lights with new, low-wattage TLED and LED Stairwell Radial lights. The school will be saving over $7,000 a year with its SmartLights retrofit. Classrooms are now well-lit, and school safety has also improved thanks to sensor-controlled LED lighting in outdoor hallways.

As a result of his positive experience working with the SmartLights program, Bret plans to retrofit the entire lighting system at all the schools he oversees.

Do you know of a school or business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Tell them about CESC’s SmartLights program!

Net Zero Commutes

By Janet Stephens

md-commute-blogYou may remember that last week, CESC employees, Dashile and Rianto, told me about the energy-efficiency of their commutes and the joy of going electric. This week, I interviewed two employees with a slightly different take on commuting without polluting.

By day, SmartLights Senior Project Manager Michael Denevan saves energy by helping businesses install energy-efficient LED lighting. By morning and evening, he saves energy during his commute. Michael has a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. His car isn’t a plug-in hybrid; he can’t charge an electric battery and drive without using the gasoline engine. But the electric motor does assist the small gas motor with acceleration, leading to an enviable fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon. The battery is recharged when he slows down using the engine, which provides extra braking power. His car also has a stick shift, making it a bit unusual for a hybrid car.

Michael told me that he doesn’t use his car much for commuting from San Francisco. Instead, he leaves the car near the office in Berkeley and uses it for business errands and meetings.

So how does he get to work? Michael almost always comes to Berkeley by BART and bike. He’s got a bike trip of a few miles on either end of the BART ride. Since CESC reports how many pounds of CO2 their projects save, I was curious how many pounds of CO2 Michael is saving with his alternative commuting method. Although I knew I could convert gasoline used to CO2 emitted, I wondered how I would find out about BART emissions. I found a great CO2 calculator on BART’s web site. If we use the fantastic fuel economy of his Civic Hybrid, he’s keeping about 10 lbs. per day and about 50 lbs. per week out of the atmosphere. But what if he drove a more typical car? A typical car in the U.S. gets 21.6 mpg (an average from the EPA). According to the BART calculator, that means Michael is keeping about 22 lbs. of CO2 out of the atmosphere every day, or over 100 lbs. every week. Way to go, Michael!

Michael has been interested in energy efficiency since college, where he studied Energy Management and Design within an Environmental Studies major. He considers saving energy one of his passions. He bikes almost everywhere, but it’s not just to save energy. Michael told me that “Biking is a pleasure and a joy! Lucky me that I get to do it for my commute.” His ultimate goal is what he calls a “net zero” commute. The term “net zero” refers to buildings, which can use but also generate their own energy; the term “carbon-neutral” would typically be used for a car that uses fuel that does not add more carbon dioxide to the air than the creation of the fuel removes. If money were no object, he’d drive a Tesla or a Golf TDI that uses biodiesel (this is the car that could be carbon-neutral, since it runs on fuel derived from plants rather than from fossil fuels).

ls-commute-blogI also spoke to CESC Marketing & Outreach Manager Lois Smith. Lois is lucky enough to live pretty close to CESC. She lives in Berkeley about a mile away from the office. She’s lucky because often she can walk to work, which she enjoys a lot. On her twenty-minute walk, she told me, “It’s really nice because I get to notice what’s around me–the trees, nature, houses, and gardens. It really changes the quality of my commute. I don’t notice those things when driving or biking. It forces me to slow down.” When she’s in a hurry, Lois bikes to work, and if she has an outreach event to attend, she sometimes drives her car. CESC has a handful of bike commuters. It has a bike rack near its front entrance; I’ve often seen 4-5 bikes hanging there.

Using the formula I got from the BART calculator, I figured out that Lois keeps about 10 lbs. of CO2 per week out of the atmosphere by walking or biking instead of driving an average car to work. By living near her office instead of across the Bay, you might say that she’s saving even more.

But we’re not all lucky enough to live near where we work. In fact, before working at CESC, Lois commuted to a job in San Francisco. Cutting down the commute cut down more than her carbon footprint; the switch put at least one additional hour in her day.

Have you considered the impact of your actions on the environment? Have you considered biking or taking BART instead of driving? Carpooling? Turning down the thermostat a few degrees? Getting an energy audit on your home? California has ambitious carbon reduction goals and is leading the way in this country towards energy efficiency. Will you be part of the solution?  Sign up for CESC’s Newsletter to learn more!

Energy-efficient Commutes: Walking the Talk at CESC

By Janet Stephens

Many people at Community Energy Services Corporation, or CESC, as you might know us, spend a lot of their day thinking about how to conserve energy. If they’re not doing it for the people they serve in their job, such as small business owners or low-income residents, they’re doing it in the office. I’ve attended many a meeting there in a semi-dark conference room; they’re reluctant to turn on even their highly efficient lighting for a daytime meeting.

dashile-ev-600x800So  it’s not a big surprise that many employees have paid close attention to the energy-efficiency of their commutes.”How much energy can I save?” seems to be a question on everybody’s minds.

I was pretty excited to speak to a few of these folks two weeks ago, since I’m interested in an all-electric car myself and I knew that a few employees have electric or hybrid vehicles.

First I spoke to Business Development Manager Dashile Miguele. Dashile spends his days reaching out to potential SmartLights customers, that is, to businesses that might be interested in improving the energy efficiency of the lighting in their places of business. Dashile has a sizable commute in each direction, so coming to work and returning home he’s working on his own energy efficiency.

Dashile drives a 2013 Chevy Volt Hybrid, which he bought used in 2015. He told me that when he was young he wanted to go fast but that now his priority is going far. The total range of the Chevy Volt, including the gas engine’s energy, is 340 miles. The car is a plug-in hybrid; it has an electric motor that runs off a battery, which you charge by plugging in. It also has an internal combustion engine, to use when the battery runs out of energy, which means that he also has to put gas in the car. With the battery fully charged, his car can go 40 miles using the electric motor. After the battery is depleted, the gas engine kicks in. Since his round-trip commute is 40 miles, Dashile can go to and from work without using a drop of gas.

What he loves most about his plug-in hybrid, though, is the immediate feedback it gives him through a dashboard indicator (see the photo montage) on the efficiency of his driving. “As with energy audits, driving a hybrid puts you in the frame of mind of micromanaging energy.” It’s changed how he drives, he told me. “It’s a test every day.”  

For example, he has learned that there are adjustments he can make as he drives to increase his efficiency. In stop-and-go traffic, he downshifts to low. He doesn’t come to a jolting stop but instead slows down gradually. Instead of always driving 75-80 miles per hour, he keeps it at a cool 65-70 miles per hour, which is the sweet spot for his car. “We should turn our attention to energy conservation. We should not take energy for granted. America’s call to arms is global warming.”  Doing what he calls his fair share to get us to a new energy source, Dashile has installed a 4.5 KW solar system on his home, so when he charges his car at home, he’s using clean, locally produced energy.

Dashile says that with the array of current electric vehicles and the choices that will be available to consumers in the next few years, this is the era of going electric.

rianto-evI also spoke to Business Development Manager Rianto Lie, who drives a plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius. Rianto freely admits that his main motivation behind the purchase was the HOV access green sticker that the low-emission vehicle allowed him to obtain. He lives in Martinez, and access to the carpool lane saves him a lot of time. Although California had stopped issuing the green stickers as planned after the first 40,000, it has now extended this limit many times.

The 4.4 kWh battery in Rianto’s car holds 12 miles of charge. After that range, the gas engine kicks in, and the car behaves like a regular Prius. As is the case with the Volt, the gas engine does not charge the battery. Rianto plugs in about 10 times a week to recharge the battery, including at work. He does get really good mileage, though, more than 50 mpg, thanks to the powertrain that can run the electric motor, which accelerates more efficiently in city traffic than a gas-powered motor.

Dashile and Rianto both mentioned the federal tax credit and state rebate, which make it easier to invest in a new electric car. The fate of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project was uncertain for a while, as the legislature debated extending it, but  $133 million was allocated to the program on August 31. Take note, however, about a warning on the program’s web site: “Apply . . . before rebate funds are exhausted.” The federal tax credit can go as high as $7,500, but will be on a slow phaseout out after 200,000 electric vehicles have been sold in the U.S.

Looking for an electric vehicle in the San Francisco Bay Area? you can take advantage of a program called Bay Area Sun Shares, which has partnered with auto dealers to offer extra discounts on the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Both of these vehicles qualify for an HOV access white sticker reserved for pure-electric cars, which have no tailpipe and zero emissions.

I spoke to a few other CESC staff members. Look for what I learned from these energy-conscious staff people next week, in part two of this blog.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can conserve energy?  Contact us for a home energy audit at 888.436.3751 or Jennifer @

Oakland’s Very Grand Lighting

grand-lake-blog-picOakland’s Grand Lake Theatre has been a showcase since the 1920s, but in recent years, it hasn’t shone quite a brightly as it used to. The ambiance of the beautiful old theatre was lost or hidden; the theatre kept many of its decorative lights off except on weekends because the energy costs of lighting were so high. That is, until now.

Grand Lake Theatre has a long history. March 6, 1926 marked its grand opening as a vaudeville show and silent movie house. In 1928, it became part of the Fox Theatre chain. Vaudeville shows were discontinued after talking pictures (known as ‘talkies’) became popular. In 1980, Allen Michaan, owner of Renaissance Rialto, Inc. purchased the lease, opening the theatre as a single-screen movie palace and beginning a process of restoration and upgrades that continues to this day.

Office Manager Audrey Marr has been very happy to see the Grand Lake Theatre finally undergo a much-needed lighting makeover. SmartLights, CESC’s energy-efficiency program for small businesses, originally approached the Grand Lake Theatre in 2008 with the possibility of a lighting upgrade, but the cost and lighting technology didn’t yield enough savings, and the theatre declined.

soffit-lightsWith new LED technology, however, the theatre moved forward with a SmartLights project to restore its ambiance through improved and more efficient lighting.

The first phase of the upgrade was to replace the “front-entrance soffits,” the many multi-colored lights under the overhang at the entrance. SmartLights replaced the old-fashioned bulbs with cold cathode fluorescent lamps (which are ideal for use on theatre marquees).

The second phase of the upgrade was to replace the lights that create the orange glow wreathing the proscenium area of each screening room. With over 1000 LEDs from SmartLights, the theatre now glows as in days of old.

grand-lake-numbersThe theatre will see many additional benefits of the project, including lower maintenance costs, lower impact on the interior paint from the low-heat output of LEDs, and the tremendous energy and cost savings, estimated at $19,000 each year from the energy-efficient lights.

There’s more: before the upgrade, the Grand Lake rented scaffolding every few years to change the old lights. This expense will no longer be needed, as Audrey anticipates the new LEDs should last as long as their lease.

proscenium-lights“Our theatre has the ambiance it used to again. It’s those little touches that make all the difference in an antique theatre,” says Marr.

Come down and see why this is the ‘Best Place to See a Movie’ in the East Bay! The ‘Grand’ is back in the Grand Lake Theatre!

Do you work for or own a small business that could benefit from an energy upgrade? Contact the SmartLights program for more information.