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

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PG&E’s Unplugged Competition Challenges High School Students to Save Energy

By David Kligman

BERKELEY — Following a multimedia presentation on the dangers of global warming, PG&E announced today (Oct. 12) to Berkeley High School students that it is sponsoring a $25,000 prize to one of five high schools that reduces the most carbon dioxide.

Competing in the 20-day contest, called the Unplugged Competition, are PG&E’s five New Energy Academy High Schools: Berkeley High, Foothill High (Sacramento), Edison High (Fresno), Independence High (Bakersfield) and Venture Academy (Stockton). The utility will award the winning school with a $25,000 grant to use toward energy efficiency efforts as chosen by students.

PG&E created the first-of-its-kind academies in California as a way to train and immerse youngsters in energy and better prepare them for green technology jobs. The first class of New Energy Academy students is set to graduate in the spring of 2013.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

Hip-hop, video tell the story

The utility partnered on the competition with the Alliance for Climate Education, which presented an assembly to Berkeley High students in the school’s Little Theatre. The presentation included animation and hip-hop music to keep the students entertained. There was even a YouTube-style parody of a Jay-Z and Alicia Keys song to encourage the harmful environmental impact of plastic grocery bags.

PG&E will award a $25,000 grant to the New Energy Academy that reduces the most energy. Pictured from left: PG&E’s Leah Casey, Glen Wolkenfield of Berkeley High’s New Energy Academy and Ashel Eldridge of Alliance for Climate Education. (Photo by David Kligman.)

But behind the lighthearted approach were sobering facts about climate change unless there is a limit to the amount of carbon dioxide generated, the presentation said:

“Health experts say that climate change poses a serious threat to human health.”

“Economists predict that climate change will cause our world trillions of dollars each year in damages.”

“If we stay on this course, climate change could cause 20 to 50 percent of the world’s known species to be threatened with extinction. And extinction means forever.”

At the end of the presentation, students from throughout the country described how they have made it their mission to stop global warming.

‘Reduce as much energy as you can’

PG&E’s Leah Casey, a senior community relations specialist, then took the stage to announce the competition. She said the winning school can use the money toward any energy-efficiency project.

“The lights in this theatre, whatever you guys think would be the best thing to reduce energy here,” Casey said. “We want you to work as hard as you can over the next 20 days, talk to your teachers, talk to other students to reduce as much energy as you can. And you might be the winner of the $25,000 reward. I hope to come here next month with a big check and a TV camera to reward you guys.”

Students said they were excited to participate.

“I think it’s a really good idea to help motivate the school and the students to be part of this competition to actually help our environment and our school,” said 15-year-old Demetrius Matthews, a member of the New Energy Academy.

Glen Wolkenfield, coordinator of Berkeley’s New Energy Academy, said the contest will spur students to action to reduce their energy consumption. And a friendly competition against fellow high schools will only further inspire them, he said.

“Thanks to PG&E’s incredible generosity, we have this fantastic program where we’re teaching kids about renewable energy, about electricity, about ways in which they can enter in the energy sector of the economy,” Wolkenfield said. “So we’re hoping that this kind of contest is going to galvanize even more interest, get kids excited and maybe even get more kids into the program.”

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

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.