"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Bakersfield: Homeless Shelter Benefits from Energy Efficient Upgrades Through PG&E Partnership

By Tracy Correa

BAKERSFIELDThe Mission at Kern County houses 300 to 400 people a night and provides 200,000 meals a year to those who have nowhere else to turn to for help.

Ivan Noriega, a Staples Energy technician, uses a lift to remove old lighting fixtures at The Mission. (Photos by Tracy Correa.)

So, it should come as no surprise that utility costs — with nine buildings occupied by employees and shelter residents 24/7 — can get pretty expensive. “There’s just a lot of power being used,” said Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of The Mission.

When Baldovinos and The Mission’s board of directors started looking at ways to cut the shelter’s overall expenses, they naturally zeroed in on utility costs. “As a nonprofit organization, we knew we had to look at this,” he said, noting that it is one of the larger budget items.

This set off a series of calls to PG&E for assistance. In short order, PG&E’s Robert Flores, a customer relationship manager in Bakersfield, and contractor Staples Energy showed up at the shelter to help. “I was on a mission for the mission,” said Flores, who headed an energy audit of the buildings.

The result is thousands of dollars of energy efficiency upgrades that are certain to save the shelter money in utility costs for years to come.

The work is all made possible through PG&E’s Local Government Partnership program, funded by California utility customers and administered by PG&E and participating agencies through the California Public Utilities Commission. The goal is to make homes and businesses more energy efficient because it benefits everyone.

“This is one of the great ways to help those that don’t have a lot of funding,” said PG&E’s Dave Christensen, Bakersfield-based senior program manager for local government partnerships.

These decades-old dusty light fixtures were removed at The Mission and replaced with energy efficient fluorescent lights that cast a brighter light.

Among some of the changes: Staples Energy, working with PG&E, installed new overhead lighting in a 5,000-square-foot building that serves as the main sleeping area. The old metal halide lights were dusty and about 20 years old and required the use of a lift to remove. They were replaced with new fluorescent T-5 lights that cast a brighter light and use far less energy.

Across the campus in the administrative building, Randy Godkin, facilities director at The Mission, watched as Staples technicians replaced lighting in the upstairs conference room where important decisions are made for the benefit of residents. Even with all the lights turned on, the room had always been dim before, said Godkin. Now, 13-watt CFL (compact fluorescent light) reflector bulbs – equivalent to 50-watt bulbs – brighten the room and will cost much less to operate.

Even the beverage machines at are now energy efficient. The lighted machines have been equipped with a device called a Vending Miser that powers down the machine but maintains a cool temperature when the surrounding area is vacant for a period of time – similar to a motion sensor.

And outdoors there is new energy-efficient and brighter lighting that makes the shelter safer at night.

“I’m very surprised,” said Baldovinos of the how it all came together in a few weeks. He said it was a perfect gift and just in time for the holiday season.

New energy-efficient lighting brightens up this 5,000-square-foot building at The Mission, part of recent energy upgrades at the shelter.

In some instances, businesses may have a co-payment for the upgrades. However, in The Mission’s case, everyone worked together to ensure the organization didn’t have to come up with any out of pocket costs.

“It’s a great feeling to help a nonprofit that wouldn’t be able to pay for the changes on its own… especially in these tough economic times,” said Christensen.

Baldovinos couldn’t agree more.

“As a nonprofit we rely on the generosity of others,” he said. “And any money we can save goes right back into our programs so that we can serve more people.”

Email Tracy Correa at tracy.correa@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.