Save energy, save money: A behind-the-scenes look at a TDPUD energy audit (Part 2) |

Save energy, save money: A behind-the-scenes look at a TDPUD energy audit (Part 2)

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; With measurements taken and a plan starting to form, it was time for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District to first tackle the easy fixes in the Sierra Sun building.

Scott Terrell, conservation specialist, and Steven Poncelet, public information and conservation manager for the district, had taken their first look, and found only an old refrigerator standing out as a place to save electricity and money in the office. The building, relatively new, met the state’s energy standards and didn’t have too many major electricity wasters.

But that didn’t stop them from going after one of their favorite ways to save: Light bulbs.

Of all the ways the utility district is trying to save energy, lighting is the easiest and most cost-effective, Poncelet said.

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and#8220;Lighting is the low-hanging fruit most people can do,and#8221; Poncelet said. and#8220;Energy savings can be anywhere from two-thirds from a CFL to 98 percent with an LED and#8212; the savings are pretty simple to calculate.and#8221;

CFLs and#8212; compact fluorescent lightbulbs and#8212; commonly are spiral-shaped. LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are common in key-chain lights, appliance indicator lights and new traffic signals, and are beginning to become practical for home and office lighting as well, Poncelet said.

And with the district giving away 12-packs of CFLs to district customers, the payback is infinite from the home or business owner’s perspective, Poncelet said.

Those spiral-shaped bulbs rated at 13 watts can replace 60- to 100-watt incandescence and#8212; which can save as much as 75 percent of a customer’s lighting energy costs, according to

For example, if the Sierra Sun found places for all 24 CFL bulbs from the utility district, that would save $656.40 a year.

But in the Sierra Sun office, much of the lighting comes from T8 fluorescent tubes, which Terrell said are already fairly efficient, and common in newer office buildings.

If the Sierra Sun had fewer efficient bulbs, Terrell said the utility district would then propose to use its commercial lighting rebate program and#8212; paying one-third of the total project cost, both materials and labor, to make the upgrade to more efficient lights.

The Sun’s outside lights and the exit signs over the doors were replaced with CFLs and LEDs, respectively, netting a savings of about $675 per year.

Other businesses can take advantage of free screw-in florescent and LED lights through the district’s Business Green Partners Program.

Like most things in life, these free compact florescent lights, rebates and other programs really aren’t really free and#8212; they’re paid for by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s revenue.

and#8220;These programs at a basic level are mandated by state law and#8212; 2.85 percent of our retail sales go into public benefit programs,and#8221; Poncelet said.

That can be used in one of four areas and#8212; energy efficiency, renewable energy, low income programs or research and development, he said, or any combination thereof.

and#8220;The district has historically invested the majority of its public benefit funds in energy efficiency and#8212; because for every dollar spent, there is a return on investment,and#8221; Poncelet said.

In analyzing its conservation programs from 2008, officials reduced the district’s energy usage by 3 percent, or 4.5 million kilowatt hours, Poncelet said, meaning it cost the district 1.3 cents to save a kilowatt hour.

and#8220;You can pay 1.3 cents to save the kilowatt hour, or pay 13 cents to use the kilowatt hour,and#8221; Poncelet said, balancing the cost of conservation against the cost of using. and#8220;That’s a factor of 10 and#8212; most customers prefer to spend the penny and a third.and#8221;

Since everybody is paying into that public benefit fund, it makes sense for everybody to take advantage of the district’s programs, he said.

and#8220;We run our conservation like a business,and#8221; Terrell said.


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