The Santa Cruz Sentinel
Santa Cruz, CA (March 22, 2003) – If other cities statewide modeled a small business lighting efficiency program begun in Santa Cruz, there would be little need to build more peaker power plants like the one proposed in Pajaro last year, according to state Public Utilities Commissioner Loretta Lynch.
Lynch, Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, and County Supervisor Jeff Almquist were on hand for the unveiling of the RightLights program Friday morning at Rebecca’s Mighty Muffins, a downtown bakery.
"Energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest and cleanest ... way to save power," Lynch said. "If we passed all that money into energy efficient programs like this, we wouldn’t need more peaker plants."
RightLights, a program of Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Ecology Action, offers rebates to help small businesses in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties update their inefficient lighting systems and cut electricity costs.
Funded by state utility ratepayers, the $1.9 million program works with a pool of area electrical contractors who have agreed to fixed, low prices for their work.
Lynch said more should be done to help small businesses make other energy and cost-saving upgrades. Other ratepayer-funded programs could provide rebates for installing updated heating and cooling systems, energy-efficient ovens, passive solar skylights, lighting timers in restrooms and better insulation.
RightLights is slated to help 600 area businesses and should save enough energy to power 700 homes and cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3 million pounds annually.
Still, the program is a rarity in a state known for its rolling blackouts and environmental leanings. Lynch pointed to only one similar program in Oakland initiated by Mayor Jerry Brown. That program is aimed at upgrading lighting in that city’s old warehouses.
The program is a "perfect fit" for the Santa Cruz County market, said Greg Carter, Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce director. The area has two times the number of sole proprietorships as the national average for markets of this size.
"RightLights provides an immediate reduction in the cost of doing business — and that boost comes at a critical time," Carter said.
Laird agreed, saying "At a time of difficult budget cuts in Sacramento, this program is a winner any way you look at it — it helps small businesses and is environmentally sound."
Lighting upgrades at Rebecca’s Mighty Muffins, a downtown Santa Cruz bakery, cost $2,515. After the RightLights rebate of $1,899, owner Rebecca Campbell’s final cost was $616.
The upgrades will save the business $2,700 annually, conserving enough energy to power two homes and reduce carbon dioxide pollution by 11,110 pounds each year.
Contact Karen A. Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.