The city of Chula Vista has put some bountiful energy into encouraging energy and water conservation retrofits, and the effort is showing results.

For the last year, the city is requiring businesses, as part of the business license process, to sign up for a free energy and water evaluation by city staff through FREBE – Free Resource & Energy Business Evaluations.

“Most of our businesses are small business operations, owner-operated businesses,” said Michelle Castagnola, an environmental resource specialist for Chula Vista. “Any assistance we can give them is helpful.

“They’re concerned with the day-to-day management of the business. When it comes to business energy options, they don’t often have time to check it out. We offer a free service and sometimes instant ways to save money, including informing them of rebates that are available to reduce the costs for upgrades. Most folks are very positive.”

Castagnola said she knew of no other city running an energy efficiency program such as Chula Vista’s with city staff going to the business to evaluate energy and water options. The evaluation takes about half an hour.

New businesses are asked to sign up for an evaluation. Those renewing business licenses get a mailer with a form in which they can request a time and date for an evaluation.

If the business is not responsive, city staff follows up with a phone call to schedule an evaluation, Castagnola said. The city has three full-time staffers and one part-timer working on FREBE.

It is a partnership program between the city of Chula Vista and San Diego Gas and Electric, funded in part by the utility bill’s public goods charge that earmarks revenue for public outreach and education. This public goods program started in Chula Vista in 2006 with a voluntary business energy evaluation program, upgraded to mandatory in 2009.

In the first year of the mandatory program, 72 percent of contacted businesses signed up for evaluations, and 71 percent of those implemented energy- or water-saving recommendations from the subsequent report, the city reported.

With information about FREBE, Chula Vista contacted 993 businesses due for business license renewals this year.

Also, Castagnola said, “New businesses are required to get a FREBE within three months of the issuance of a business license, but we work with the business to meet their needs.”

In addition, Castagnola estimated 150 businesses that were not required to by the law this year (most business licenses are on a four-year renewal cycle) contacted the city asking to schedule an evaluation.

The evaluation looks at

  • A building’s lighting, cooling and heating systems;
  • Exterior support such as insulation, windows and doors;
  • Office equipment;
  • Operational procedures;
  • Utility bills.

Chula Vista’s FREBE program has been featured on the Web site of the Green Cities California coalition, which spotlights model sustainability practices. See that website here.

FREBE complements other city energy conservation programs through the Department of Conservation and Environmental Services, including an Appliance Exchange Rebate Program for home owners. 
See  the City’s FREBE website here.

“We have a holistic approach,” said Castagnola.