Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New "Oakland Shines" Program Aims to Green Downtown Businesses

By Nate Seltenrich
Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 1:53 PM

Oakland fancies itself a green town, but there's always room to grow — even if only to upstage pesky Berkeley. In recent years, US cities from New York to San Francisco have embraced greening measures geared toward reducing energy consumption in downtown business districts. Now Oakland's getting in on the act. Oakland Shines, launched by Mayor Jean Quan earlier this month, will offer technical assistance and cash rebates to downtown businesses over the next two years in order to promote energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration products as well as HVAC improvements.

The program, funded by a $5 million stimulus grant from the California Energy Commission and administered in partnership with PG&E and managing contractor Quantum Energy Services & Technologies, Inc., aims to achieve a 20 percent reduction in energy use among 80 percent of all downtown businesses. Downtown is defined as a 120-block area bounded by Highway 980 to the north, Lake Merritt to the south, Grand Avenue to the east, and Jack London Square to the west.

After administrative costs and technical assistance services are factored out, Oakland Shines still has more than $2.75 million in rebates available. Incentives are based on the technology installed and the associated energy savings; in essence, projects that save more energy will receive more money. Rebates for advanced lighting and HVAC technologies range from $0.19 to $0.89 per kilowatt hour saved, while more common measures will receive $0.05 to $0.15. According to the project's website, typical financial incentives range from 50 to 90 percent of total project costs.

Much like Berkeley's pioneering Money for Energy Efficiency residential incentive program, also developed with PG&E's help, Oakland Shines offers free energy audits to downtown businesses and buildings. Completed audits provide descriptions of all proposed technologies and their associated savings, costs, and available incentives. The Oakland Shines program ends in March 2012, or sooner if funds are exhausted.

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