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


How PG&E Turns on Energy Savings for Building Owners and Tenants

By Jonathan Marshall

If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, look first for the low-hanging fruit. You’ll find bunches of it in America’s commercial buildings, which use about 20 percent of U.S. energy and account for about the same share of total greenhouse gas emissions.

In recognition of that fact, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International has challenged its members to reduce overall energy consumption by 30 percent.


Juniper Networks’ new campus headquarters in Sunnyvale is ultra-efficient. (Photo by Juniper Networks.)

As its first piece of advice to help owners and managers green their facilities and their communities, BOMA International recently said: “Reach out to local utility companies to find out what incentives and programs are offered in your city and how your building can benefit.”

Good advice. Since 2006, PG&E has provided more than $500 million in energy efficiency program rebates to commercial businesses, helping them save more than 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 49 million therms of natural gas. The impact on greenhouse gas emissions was roughly equivalent to taking 775,000 passenger cars off the road for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s calculator.

“We have lots of programs so we can reach more players and influence the market,” says Aaron Berndt, who manages PG&E’s commercial energy efficiency programs. “We also offer technical advice and audit tools to help customers identify opportunities to save energy, and training on how to implement facility upgrades. And we continually review and revamp our programs to better serve the market.”

With help from PG&E, Bank of America Corporation slashed electricity demand at facilities in our service area by more than a million watts. The InterContinental San Francisco reduced its energy consumption by nearly 20 percent and cut its energy bills by more than a third. And PG&E helped Juniper Networks design its ultra-efficient new campus headquarters in Sunnyvale, reducing the company’s annual electric consumption by about a million kilowatt-hours and its first-year electric bill by about $120,000.

PG&E targets commercial building owners and tenants for several good reasons. They use far more energy than any home, so there’s more bang for the buck in making efficient retrofits or improving building designs. Since many buildings have dedicated energy managers, it’s easier to get their attention. And because many buildings are long-lived, they may not have the most up-to-date technology for saving energy.

PG&E offers such customers a host of programs to cut their energy bills and meet sustainability objectives:

  • Traditional rebate programs offer customers financial incentives to buy state-of-the-art equipment, including boilers, computers, HVAC systems, refrigeration, and especially lighting. PG&E also has specialized rebate programs for sectors such as for agriculture and food processing, hotels and lodging, heavy industry, and K-12 schools.
  • Savings By Design, a statewide program offered by PG&E, encourages owners to invest in high-performance new buildings, which push the energy efficiency envelope beyond existing state and federal codes and standards. The program provides financial incentives, design assistance, and educational resources.
  • PG&E’s new Commercial Whole Building demonstration program rewards owners and long-term leaseholders with customized incentives to achieve significant savings through comprehensive facility upgrades, based on documented reductions in energy consumption. Eligible customers can finance these improvements with zero interest loans from PG&E, up to $100,000 for commercial customers and $250,000 for government agencies.
  • Last but not least, PG&E offers a variety of demand response programs, which reward customers who cut their energy demand at key times to ease the load on the state’s power grid, supporting reliable service and reducing energy supply costs.

Email Jonathan Marshall at jonathan.marshall@pge.com.


This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.