Although serving as headquarters for one of the nation’s major energy providers, San Diego County’s elected board voted unanimously Tuesday to continue to buy its own natural gas and electricity and to pursue a state-backed loan to further solarize its county government facilities. Past efforts have resulted in reducing the county government’s annual power bill by $655,000, the county has calculated.

The elected supervisors voted 4-0 to start the process of renewing its direct access gas-power contract. The current deal is with Constellation New Energy. The original deal kicked in January 2003, and the county general services director told the elected officials that the contract has shaved more than $600,000 off the annual tab for energy.

Supervisors were told the county is looking to increase its energy savings through competitive bidding, given the fact that more wholesale energy providers are operating in the state now compared to when the county cut its original deal.

In addition to the direct access deal, San Diego County calculated it has saved at least $55,000 in ten months through the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on several of its buildings. The supervisors agreed to authorize the county to seek a $5 million loan from the California Energy Commission to support expanded PV installation and energy efficiency programs upgrading lighting, heating/air-conditioning and automated energy control systems at the local government facilities.

County elected officials categorized the energy efforts as “a huge success,” noting that direct-access is becoming more effective because they see a more competitive wholesale market developing with more energy service providers.

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