For non-profits, finding ways to reduce energy costs can be difficult. There are many barriers they face, including sizable costs for energy-saving equipment and the steep learning curve of energy management. To overcome these obstacles and identify impactful strategies to reduce energy usage, several organizations in Balboa Park participated in San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) Business Energy Solutions Program.
The Business Energy Solutions (BES) Program provides several services for eligible SDG&E customers. This includes an energy audit, performed by a third-party contractor, to identify opportunities to save energy. The strategies they suggest often include no to low-cost upgrades or maintenance on equipment, ranging from lighting to HVAC tune ups.
For small non-profits with limited budgets, programs like BES can make these energy audits and equipment upgrades more accessible. Both the San Diego Art Institute and the WorldBeat Cultural Center identified opportunities to save energy for a low cost.
Energy Audits – finding opportunities to reduce costs
An energy audit is one of the best ways to identify opportunities to save energy in facilities. During an audit, a contractor or other third-party uses specialized tools and analyses to create a summary of how the building uses energy. Using this summary, the auditor suggests “Energy Conservation Measures” that are uniquely designed for the building. By bringing in professionals who are knowledgeable of energy-efficient equipment and building management, facilities can find relevant and cost-effective ways to manage their energy use.
While walking through the San Diego Art Institute, the energy auditor found more than 25 florescent light bulbs that could be replaced with LED bulbs, which use energy more efficiently than other types of bulbs. Some of these replacement bulbs also qualified for SDG&E Instant Lighting Rebate. Through this program, many of the LED bulbs they bought immediately had their price lowered at the time of purchase, making their return on investment a lot quicker!
Over at the WorldBeat Cultural Center, their energy audit also found several ways to improve their lighting. Throughout their building, there were over 60 fluorescent light bulbs that could be converted to T8 LEDs. By upgrading light bulbs throughout their building, the organization expects to save over $1,100 every year in energy costs.
The importance of lighting upgrades
These lighting improvements have a significant impact on cutting energy costs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 17% of the energy used by the average commercial building is for lighting, making it the largest single use of electricity in commercial buildings. By finding ways to make lighting in a facility more efficient, a building can cut how much energy it uses. This also decreases the facility’s environmental impact by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from energy use.
Small changes in lighting equipment can make a large difference. Swapping to energy-efficient light bulbs, like LEDs, can save a significant amount of energy. An LED bulb can use up to 80% less energy than an average incandescent bulb. Even fluorescent bulbs, commonly used in commercial buildings, use significantly more energy than the efficient LEDs. For the museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park that require high-quality lighting, making the change to efficient light bulbs can have a big impact on energy and maintenance costs. LEDs also last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often as other types of light bulbs/tubes.
Making an important impact on climate change
Together, these projects will reduce energy use in the Park by over 3,000 kilowatt hours each year. The 2.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions prevented by these energy savings is equal to approximately 5,400 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle. By reducing their emissions, these organizations have made an important contribution to making Balboa Park a more sustainable urban park and cultural center.
Interested in learning more about the Business Energy Solutions Program? Visit SDG&E’s website at sdge.com/BES or call the Energy Savings Center at 1.800.644.6133.