Meeting Will Gather Input on Sonora Energy-Efficiency Plan

A public workshop was held on Monday, June 9th, to gather input on a plan aimed at improving energy efficiency throughout the City of Sonora.

The Sierra Business Council is developing an “energy action plan” for the city as part of its climate planning program that’s funded by a public-good surcharge on Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers’ monthly bills.

Earlier this year, the Sonora City Council approved city staff to aid in the development of the plan.

Paul Ahrns, program director for the Sierra Business Council, said the plan will provide a road map for residents, businesses, and government agencies in the city to increase energy efficiency and save money through reduced usage.

“The goal is to increase understanding of energy use, costs and potential savings,” Ahrns said.

The council was selected to run the program by PG&E in 2010. Since then, the council has created such plans for nine cities and counties throughout the Sierra Nevada, including Amador County, the City of Jackson, Mariposa County and Nevada City.

Ahrns said the plan is intended to help the city come up with strategies that can reduce usage by between 10 and 20 percent. However, the city and its residents and businesses won’t be required to meet any energy efficiency targets.

Such strategies can include rebates and incentives to reduce the upfront costs for upgrades to lighting, refrigeration, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as building improvements that can reduce energy needs.

Ahrns said the latest readily available data from 2015 showed the city’s total residential power usage that year was 17 million kilowatt-hours at a cost of about $4 million.

Nonresidential usage, such as businesses, office buildings and street lights, was 28 million kilowatt-hours at a cost of about $6.5 million.

Based on the total city’s residential usage divided by the California Department of Finance’s estimates of occupied housing, Ahrns determined the average monthly usage per occupied household was 647 kilowatt-hours per month.

That was lower than the national average of 901 kilowatt hours, but higher than the average for California of 557 kilowatt-hours.

The plan will also analyze the amount of renewable energy being produced in the city and determine the market potential for increasing renewable energy production, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small hydro.

“We’re trying to do a high-level analysis and figure out what is the market potential,” Ahrns said. “It will be up to individuals to determine if it’s a good investment for their home or business.”

Ahrns said the council will collect the feedback from Monday’s workshop and online survey that will stay up until July, then work to create a draft of the plan by September with help from volunteers in the community.

Meeting Will Gather Input on Sonora Energy-Efficiency Plan, by Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat, June 9, 2017.

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