As part of a means of raising the profile of the natural gas-related energy efficiency efforts in the state and a $10 million rebate pool now available, Southern California Gas Co. Tuesday will hold an Energy Efficiency Expo, giving out its first-ever “Energy Efficiency Champion Award” to actor Ed Begley Jr. and four awards for excellence to local businesses and government.

Awards went to a direct-mail marketing company, Vertis Communications; a retail fast food restaurant chain, Carl’s Jr.; the Orange County local government operations; and an energy equipment service vendor, Park’s Cleaners Service. Each received incentives from the gas utility to upgrade their energy equipment. Vertis changed out equipment resulting in a 20% efficiency savings and got a $300,000 rebate from SoCalGas; the others made similar changeouts with the help of the utility, gaining rebates in the area of $25,000 each.

“The cost of doing business in California keeps rising, and SoCalGas’ energy-efficiency programs can help keep those costs under control,” said Jack Kyser, senior vice president and chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp, and the keynote speaker at the gas utility’s expo.

“The Energy Efficiency Expo is a forum to help businesses take advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency,” said SoCal’s Anne Shen Smith, senior vice president of customer services. It is a means the utility chose to dramatize its part of the state’s stepped up funding for energy efficiency, including $10 million annually in rebates from the utility. This is the highest funding level ever for SoCalGas efficiency programs.

Smith said Begley is someone who “not only speaks out for energy efficiency but also walks the talk.” Known as the “greenest man in Tinseltown,” the TV/movie actor and chair of the Environmental Media Association has supported energy efficiency and environmental issues for nearly 40 years. He regularly arrives at Hollywood events on his bicycle and produces his own line of environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Begley’s most recent support for energy efficiency came earlier this year through his starring role in what is called an “eco-reality TV series,” Living with Ed, an HGTV program chronicling his daily life in an energy-efficient home that includes energy-saving appliances, his own wind turbine, solar panels, solar oven and an exercise bicycle that generates power.

The gas utility’s announcement of presenting the award to Begley includes a quote from the actor, saying “energy efficiency is not only possible but practical,” and his investments in it “have often paid me back many times over.”

Apropos of the subject matter, SoCalGas said that the Energy-Efficiency Champion Award given to Begley will be manufactured from 100% post-consumer recycled wood and glass.

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