Saving Energy and Money through City-owned Building Benchmarking and Retrofits
The second largest city in San Diego County, Chula Vista is a leader in local government sustainability, adopting its first citywide climate action plan in 2000. Since then, the city has won numerous awards for its environmental efforts, including a Climate Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and an Energy Showcase Award from San Diego Gas & Electric® (SDG&E).
Chula Vista began benchmarking its buildings in 2010. One of the driving forces was an opportunity to receive utility incentives for examining the energy performance of its buildings. At this time, the city also became a partner with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Better Buildings® Challenge.
Organizations committing to the Better Buildings Challenge agree to
- Conduct an energy efficiency assessment of their building portfolio and pledge an organization-wide energy savings goal
- Take action by showcasing an energy efficiency project and implementing a plan to achieve lasting energy savings
- Report results by sharing cost-effective approaches for saving energy and performance data that demonstrates the success
Through its participation in the Better Buildings Challenge, the city began benchmarking more of its building portfolio and ultimately received ENERGY STAR® Certification for three of its administrative buildings in 2011. Benchmarking using ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® provided the city with a central database of consumption information for its large portfolio of buildings. Centralizing the information in Portfolio Manager made it possible for staff to review the properties and to prioritize which properties would undergo energy audits. In turn, the energy audits helped inform the city as it pursued HVAC and lighting repairs and retrofits.
By 2014, the city’s benchmarking efforts were bolstered when the city adopted the City Operations Sustainability Plan. Benchmarking is a key strategy in the plan to help the city achieve its goal of reducing municipal energy use by 20% by 2020.
Direct funding for benchmarking activities and energy efficiency efforts is provided by California ratepayers via the city’s participation in a local government partnership with SDG&E and other local jurisdictions. SDG&E’s Direct Install Program, now known as SDG&E’s Business Energy Solutions Program, provided advice and funding for various energy efficiency retrofits, such as LED lighting, throughout Chula Vista’s building portfolio.
Benchmarking against a 2010 baseline, Chula Vista has improved energy performance by 18% across its portfolio. Approximately 8% of the savings resulted from lighting retrofits, while the remaining 10% came from HVAC repairs and retrofits at several facilities. Additionally, the city has further reduced its demand for grid electricity by 11% through the installation of 1.7 megawatts of solar panels. The city reinvested the money saved by these energy efficiency projects into their general fund.
Chula Vista is currently performing a citywide lighting retrofit in 28 city-owned buildings, funded by utility rebates and on-bill financing. The city also is looking toward future energy projects, including battery storage, solar and wind, with the overall goal of reaching zero net energy.
To learn more about the city's efforts to save energy please visit chulavistaca.gov/clean.
Last updated September 2016
 U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.) Better Buildings Challenge. Retrieved July 18, 2016, from http://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/challenge.
Learn more about the Center for Sustainable Energy’s Zero Net Energy Roadmap for Local Governments.