Planning services offered to aid Prop. 39 energy projects

Planning services offered to aid Prop. 39 energy projects

(Calif.) Districts in line to receive a share of the new Proposition 39 money for boosting energy efficiency can now utilize technical planning services offered by a consulting firm, following action this week by the California Energy Commission.

The CEC on Tuesday approved a $4 million contract with a southern California firm to provide support to K-12 schools and community colleges moving forward with Prop. 39 projects -- from installation of temperature control devices to alternative energy systems, including solar.

“This contract gives us a lot of flexibility in the types of services that we can offer to all schools to try to help them identify what their needs are and guide them through the process,” said Marcia Smith, the CEC’s Prop. 39 program manager.

"A lot of the facility managers and energy advocates in the communities working with schools are really encouraging them not to just look at this as a one-time influx of money but as an opportunity to invest in projects that will end up saving them money on their untility bills so that they can continue doing improvements on their campuses whether its to facilties or improving education resources," she added.

Proposition 39, known as the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, was approved by voters in late 2012. The measure closed a tax loophole on out-of-state companies doing business in California and is expected to bring in additional annual tax revenues of nearly $1 billion.

Half of that amount is being directed for the next five years to the Clean Energy Jobs Fund – or Prop. 39 program – to pay for energy-efficient upgrades at K-12 districts, charter schools and county offices of education as well as community colleges.

Part of the Prop. 39 revenue – $28 million annually – is to be used to fund two smaller CEC programs, one a zero-interest loan program, the other a technical assistance “services grant” program known as Bright Schools.

It is through the Bright Schools program that Westlake Village-based Digital Energy, Inc. is contracted to “identify and support modernization, deferred maintenance and retrofit opportunities by conducting facility energy audits, preparing technical reports, identifying and evaluating cost-effective energy efficiency measures and clean onsite self-generation opportunities, and providing professional engineering support.”

Prop. 39 funds are available to all districts and grants are awarded on the basis of average daily attendance figures. Districts that apply for funding through the Prop. 39 program are then also eligible to apply for the Bright Schools program, which, according to Smith, can offer service grants worth up to $20,000 per LEA.

The Bright Schools funding, which currently totals $5.2 million, is available on a first-come, first serve basis and requires just a simple three-page, online application, Smith said.

The CEC currently has 175 Bright Schools applications in-house, and more are expected, according to the project manager.

As of Monday, according to the CEC, the larger Prop. 39 program had received 221 applications requesting $137.9 million for 676 project sites. A total of $103.2 million in funding has been approved for 153 applicants and 450 projects/sites. more