Energy Efficiency & Resiliency in the Fight Against COVID-19

by Institute for Local Government (ILG)

From Left to Right: Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, County of Orange Fifth District; Erica Manuel, CEO & Executive Director, Institute for Local Government; Supervisor Jim Gillio, County of San Benito Fourth District; Graham Knaus, Executive Director, California State Association of Counties

As local governments face unprecedented impacts to their communities and budgets, now more than ever, we must work creatively together to double down on our commitments to sustainability and climate action to build resilience to future disasters and public health crises. Energy efficiency is as a critically important strategy in our toolbox in not only reducing costs, but supporting social, economic and environmental resilience in our communities.

A recent report by ACEEE illuminates how energy efficiency upgrades protect local budgets while keeping local economic resources in the community. Reducing electricity demand increases system reliability and the ability for our front-line workers to respond to emergencies. Retrofitting buildings to maintain temperatures helps residences remain livable during shelter in place orders. Reducing electricity yields reduces air pollution, which a Harvard study linked with higher COVID-19 death rates.  

To achieve these benefits, your agency can utilize on-bill financing, revolving loan funds and more to ensure low cost retrofits. Consider partnering with Regional Energy Networks such as SoCalREN and BayREN to help your agency realize cost savings and build resilience in your communities. From agricultural and coastal regions in central California to the mountain towns of the Sierra Nevada, local agencies participating in the Beacon Program have saved countless kilowatt hours of electricity through energy efficiency upgrades. These committed agencies have reduced the bottom line of their budgets, lowering their exposure to price volatility and bolstering their community’s ability to respond and recover to unprecedented circumstances.

The county of San Benito earned a Platinum Beacon Spotlight Award in Agency Energy Savings for utilizing energy savings programs to reduce electricity use in county facilities by 30% nearly 743,000 kilowatt hours (kWh). By retrofitting facility lighting and streetlights with LEDs and upgrading a chiller, the county reduced agency expenditures by thousands of dollars and freed up resources for essential services. The Town of Truckee reduced electricity usage at Town Hall by 13% through lighting upgrades and focusing on HVAC, earning them a Gold Beacon Spotlight Award and saving the town thousands in energy costs each year. In 2019, the eleven Beacon Award participants saved over twelve million kWh of electricity, equivalent to $2 million.

ILG continues to support and recognize the efforts of local agencies to reduce costs, save money and build resilience. Visit our library of energy efficiency resources and case stories to learn more about how your agency can start today and reach out to to learn more.