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On a QUEST to Save Oakland 8.4 Gigawatt Hours

August 13, 2010 - 3:38pm


Derrick Rebello wants to make the downtown corridor of Oakland, California, one of the greenest in the nation.

Through the new Downtown Oakland Targeted Measure Saturation Project, he and his company, Quantum Energy Services and Technologies (QUEST), are targeting the city's 120-block business district to make as many buildings as possible highly energy efficient.

"The goal is to really leave no stone unturned," said Rebello, president of QUEST. "We are trying to achieve 80 percent participation. And of those participating buildings, we are focusing on getting a 20 percent reduction [in energy use]. So, both are unprecedented."

Investing in Oakland

The project, partly funded by a $4.85 million grant from the State Energy Program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is being administered by California's State Energy Program. Using the Recovery Act grant and an additional $2.3 million from other funding sources, the project outcome goal is to reduce energy waste and overall use for Oakland businesses of all kinds.

In addition, the project, expected to begin September 15 and last 18 months, will also provide on-the-job training in energy audits and retrofits for local area residents.

To achieve this, QUEST won't be working alone. The Berkley, California-based energy efficiency engineering firm plans to partner with Pacific Gas & Electric, the city of Oakland, business and community groups, and more. If successful, the project proposal says, the same model may be used elsewhere in California.

8.4 GWh and counting

QUEST predicts that retrofitting 9 million square feet of commercial building space could save Oakland 8.4 gigawatt hours of electricity, 138,500 therms of gas and avoid 4,417 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

To make these building highly energy efficient, QUEST and partners will use newer technologies, such as wireless lighting and HVAC controls, motion-sensitive garage lighting and LED lighting for refrigerator cases. Much of the funding will support purchasing those technologies.

But simpler energy-efficiency measures, like switching to more efficient lighting will also be used, says Rebello. In fact, incentives offered by PG&E will help QUEST determine what measures to take, he says, and form a large part of the project's private funding. PG&E will also provide audit resources. In addition, the project will include an effort to change behaviors at the targeted companies, which includes an energy-savings contest among 15 of the larger buildings.

Creating jobs

Energy savings is not the only benefit to the city.

An estimated 78 jobs, according to the grant, will be created through this project -- directly for the installation, and indirectly by increasing demand for these services and products.

Rebello predicts more, saying that the project includes developing internships for students in Bay Area "green jobs" training programs. One program pairs interns with an auditor and installation contractors to get hands-on experience. The other, designed for students who are considering engineering degrees, will pair the interns with engineers in order to give the interns insight into jobs after graduation.

"What we're trying to do is find those people jobs," Rebello said. "We're not going to say [contractors] have to hire those people, but we're definitely trying to promote those individuals."