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

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Biotech Leader, Audio Manufacturer Share Energy Efficiency Success Stories

By David Kligman

SAN FRANCISCO — Meyer Sound Laboratories employs about 300 employees at its Berkeley facilities where groundbreaking technologies are designed and manufactured for the professional audio industry.

Genentech is a biotechnology pioneer with more than 12,000 employees who work at its South San Francisco headquarters, which includes manufacturing and research facilities.

Jerry Meek of Genentech, right, discusses how his company worked with PG&E on major energy efficiency measures. Also pictured: Gary Robinson of Meyer Sounds Laboratories, left, and PG&E moderator Chris Benjamin, senior manager of corporate sustainability. (Photos by David Kligman.)

The former builds sound systems used at everything from NFL stadiums to Metallica concerts, while the latter produces medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions.

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The companies are strikingly different but they agree on one thing: Energy efficiency makes perfect sense.

The two companies were part of a PG&E-led panel discussion last week (Feb. 27) at the Green Biz Forum at the University of California, San Francisco Mission Bay Conference Center. PG&E, a Green Biz Forum sponsor, has a long history with the conference as its onetime host.

PG&E’s goal to inspire and partner with businesses

Chris Benjamin, PG&E’s senior manager of corporate sustainability who moderated the session, said the goal of the panel was to inspire and provide other companies with practical tips to implement their own energy efficiency measures.
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Meyer Sound Laboratories in Berkeley has saved about 275,000 kilowatt hours of energy from upgraded lighting and other steps. (Photo courtesy of Meyer Sound Laboratories.)

PG&E has championed energy efficiency for more than 30 years. Benjamin said it’s always important for customers — residential or businesses — to understand that for California utilities like PG&E, the sale of gas and electricity is separated or “decoupled” from company earnings.

“So PG&E doesn’t actually make more money when we sell more gas and electricity,” Benjamin told the group. “Rather, we’re working hard every day to help customers save energy.”

Meyer Sound Laboratories certainly is a believer in saving energy. Over the past several years, the Berkeley company worked with PG&E and a Bay Area program called SmartLights to upgrade the lighting at its six buildings, including its 65,000-square-foot warehouse. As a result of this and other steps, the audio maker has saved about 275,000 kilowatt hours of energy, which translates to powering 15 houses for a year.

For Meyer Sound Laboratories, upgrading its lighting was one way to show its employees and customers that the company was reducing its environmental impact. But upgrading the lighting also has allowed the company to save money that is being reinvested into its growth.

“Because of the financial advantages, our CFO bought in,” said Gary Robinson, director of facilities and campus expansion for Meyer Sound Laboratories. “So it’s really a pretty easy sell.”

Genentech energy savings include 20 million kilowatt hours

There might be no greater testament to a business’ energy savings than Genentech. Over the past five years alone, PG&E has helped the company save a staggering 20 million kilowatt hours and 500,000 therms of natural gas.

8Julie Ahner and Kurt Haasch staff a PG&E booth at the Green Biz Forum at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center last week.

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“If you look at your refrigerator at home, it’s one of your bigger uses of energy,” said Jerry Meek, senior manager of energy and sustainability for Genentech. “We have many minus 80 (degree C) freezers. Each one takes 10,000 kilowatt hours per year. My home doesn’t even use that in an entire year.”

Genentech is embarking on a project to dramatically reduce the amount of energy used by those freezers.

Genentech has also partnered with PG&E on a number of other massive energy efficiency projects, including a strong “retrocommissioning” initiative that involved taking a detailed look at heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and control systems and making a variety of enhancements to reduce energy use.

Still other projects have ranged from upgrading lighting to adding a window film that saves energy while also cutting down on glare.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to partnering with PG&E was relying on the utility’s expertise and resources, said Meek.

“They hired somebody at zero cost to us —zero cost — to do energy audits for us,” he said.

After the session, both companies provided their top tips for companies to begin the journey to save energy:

  • Partner with PG&E, which offers 130 energy efficiency programs serving every business size and all technology types, including lighting, heating, cooling, motors, pumps, fans and appliances. These rebate and incentive programs help make energy efficiency upgrades more affordable and reduce the payback period of the project. For more information visit www.pge.com/moneyback.
  • Start with easier projects first.
  • No change or savings is too small. Little things do make a difference.
  • Have goals that are “smart” ― specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-based.
  • Create a project management plan to implement your goals.
  • Measure and monitor the program.

It’s more than just an exercise, Robinson said. To be successful, energy efficiency leadership and behavior must become part of the company’s culture.

“It’s not just four people,” he said. “You have to take it down to the assembly. You have to train everybody, from the president to the truck driver on making this behavior a day-to-day thing. Go after the stuff that’s easy first.”

And above all, he said, “Do something.”

Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.