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

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Sacramento’s Foothill High Wins PG&E Unplugged Competition Among New Energy Academies

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By David Kligman

SACRAMENTO — Students at Foothill High School’s New Energy Academy applauded as PG&E presented a $25,000 check today (Jan. 24) in a contest among high schools to reduce the most energy.

PG&E’s Steve Nichols, lower left, presents a $25,000 check to students and teachers at Foothill High’s New Energy Academy. (Photos by David Kligman.)

Many of the New Energy Academy’s 85 students crowded into the school library as PG&E’s Steve Nichols officially announced the good news.

“I think you really ought to be proud of all that you’ve accomplished,” Nichols, the utility’s Northern region director of energy solutions and service, told the students. “It’s important what you’re doing. It’s good for you and it’s good for the community.”

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

And he made a plug for some day working for PG&E. He said his own career has involved many of the same energy-savings practices performed by the students.

“If you’ve had any fun doing the energy audits, you can actually make a career out of it,” he said. “It’s making a difference in the world.”

Nichols also reminded students that applications for PG&E’s Bright Minds scholarships are now available.

Competition between five New Energy Academies

The Unplugged Competition last fall pitted the five PG&E-sponsored New Energy Academy High Schools (Foothill High, Berkeley High, Edison High in Fresno, Independence High in Bakersfield and Venture Academy in Stockton) in a 15-day contest to see which school could reduce the most carbon dioxide.

3Sophomore Marina Bailey, right, explains how she has adapted energy-saving techniques to her home.

Foothill High students can use the $25,000 grant toward the energy efficiency project of their choice at their school. Teacher David Yeroshek said the academy planned to use the money for an outreach program to improve energy efficiency in nearby elementary schools as well as for equipment for Foothill High, including motion sensor lights. And it will help pay for field trips, which can cost as much as $2,000.

Yeroshek said he was grateful for all PG&E has done for his school.

“We get some money from the state, but there is an incredible amount of strings attached,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much this means to us.”

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 this coming spring.

Teachers, area non-profits benefit

The Alliance for Climate Education partnered with PG&E last fall on a multimedia presentation at each of the schools to inspire students and to announce the contest.

Click here to stay informed about the California model for energy efficiency

Over two weeks, the Foothill High students enrolled some 30 teachers in the contest and made sure they were working to reduce energy use in their classrooms by turning off electronics and lights.

4Foothill High in Sacramento is one of five PG&E-sponsored New Energy Acadamies. The others are in Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield and Berkeley.

In addition, all five New Energy Academies selected a PG&E nonprofit partner to benefit from their newly acquired skills. Foothill High performed a free energy audit for Habitat for Humanity’s Sacramento office. They looked at plug load and lights, took measurements and calculated carbon footprints for several rooms. In all, they saved 3,725 pounds of carbon dioxide and 2,426 kilowatt hours of energy.

Students said they were surprised they had won considering their school is smaller than some of the other New Energy Academies.

They actually learned they had won when Yeroshek mentioned the fact offhand a week ago, said student Marina Bailey.

“We asked him, ‘Hey, Mr. Yeroshek, what happened to the prize for the contest?’ He said, ‘We actually won.’ We were like ‘What? We won? Are you serious?’ And then we all got happy. It was a great day.”

Bailey said she learned new ways to save energy, including unplugging computers even if they’re not powered on. Many of the students also adopted their new energy-saving techniques at home.

“Some of the ways we saved energy, at first we thought, ‘Well, that’s not really a big impact,’” she said. “But then we taught what we learned to teachers and they used them.”

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

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.