It’s easy for those of us consumed with the ins and outs of the new green economy to get a little obsessed with the latest technological solution. The fact of the matter is that for families that are struggling to pay their $40 per month electric bill, the investment in efficiency upgrades is simply out of reach. It’s so easy to save money when you consume less energy, yet the cost of capital improvements can be insurmountable. That’s where Rising Sun Energy Center in Berkeley, California comes in.
Rising Sun Energy Center is going low tech: they conduct free energy audits and provides free CFL lightbulbs, faucet aerators, and low flow showerheads to Bay Area home owners. In the summer of 2008, 70% of the homes served were low-to-moderate income homes. Rising Sun provided 2,133 households with energy saving hardware and information, installed 21,944 energy and water saving measures in Bay Area households, and provided an annual savings of approximately 349 Mwh and 6,632 therms. In financial terms, this is no small potatoes: we’re talking about over $1,363,000 in energy dollars over the lifetime of the measures installed, just for the summer 2008 installs. Mary Ellen Burns, a student working on her MBA in Sustainable Management, who worked for Rising Sun over the summer through a PG&E internship, states,
I came to Rising Sun extremely interested in technical solutions to climate change like thin film solar. What I realized is that there is an incredible amount of difference we can make in people’s lives by changing their electricity bill from $120 to $60. We don’t have to go to Africa, there is so much we can do here at home to make people’s lives a little easier.
Rising Sun accomplishes all that, but they take it even one step further. They hire 14-22 year olds to conduct the energy audits. Says Jodi Pincus, Executive Director of Rising Sun:
Our youth represent the diversity and culture of their community, and they become the next generation of leaders and educators in their neighborhoods. They become the champions of energy and water efficiency.
For the youth employed by Rising Sun, employment opportunities and job training can be difficult to come by. Rising Sun fills in the gaps, giving the next generation job skills and training in the green collar jobs industry.
It is an exciting time for Rising Sun as we expand our workforce training objectives to help create pathways out of poverty while at the same time addressing the environmental issues effecting society.
Rising Sun is finished with their energy audits for the summer (I know, I know, next year we’ll be quicker on the uptake). But they have big plans for future growth: over the next three years, the California Youth Energy Services program will serve over 10,000 residences across five counties in the Bay Area.
Photo Courtesy of Rising Sun Energy Center