Campus: Sonoma State University -- November 08, 2002

Energy Management Students Will Help Small Businesses Save Dollars In Utility Bills

The efficient use of energy is an important issue in today's world, and Sonoma State University is doing its part by reaching out to small businesses in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties and helping them to reduce their operating costs and save energy at the same time.

The University, in partnership with the Sonoma-based Small Business Energy Alliance (SBEA), has trained students from the energy management and design curriculum to do audits that lead to recommendations for energy-efficient improvements. Such recommendations can lead to between 5 to 40 per cent reduction in energy use and thus a savings in the cost of operations.

"Energy efficiency is the most powerful tool we have for taking action against global climate change," says Alexandra von Meier, the director of the Environmental Technology Center (ETC) at Sonoma State University. "This is an effective way of dealing with greenhouse gas reduction in our communities."

Businesses from the very small (under 10,000 square feet) to medium sized (10,000 - 50,000 square feet) are the target of this program which pays up to 50% of the installed cost of the energy efficiency improvements. The improvements can often pay for themselves in six months to a couple of years.

The City of Sonoma has already agreed to fund the other half of improvement costs for businesses in its area, and other cities in the three counties are being approached to do the same.

The students are trained to complete small business energy audits, recommend specific measures, and connect the businesses with qualified installers who carry out the work.

Small businesses in the three county area can receive one or several of the following recommendations:

  • Installation of efficient lighting systems
  • Installation of programmable thermostats
  • tune-ups for "air conditioning systems"
  • tune-ups for self-contained and split-system refrigeration systems

The SBEA grant is funded by California ratepayers with the guidance of the California Public Utilities Commission and lasts until December, 2003. The SBEA partners include, Sonoma State University, RLW Analytics, Inc, ASW Engineering, and Geltz Communications.

The SBEA is following in the footsteps of last year’s Energy Saver’s Program, which was a huge success in the Southern California.

For more information, please contact Armando Navarro at (707) 664-2577, by e-mail at, or the Small Business Energy Alliance at (800) 881-7232,

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