SRJC plans energy efficient future


Courtesy of Facebook

Employees’ commute to work is responsible for 50 percent of Sonoma County’s General Services Department’s Energy and Sustainability Division’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Genesis Napel, Co-News Editor

Words like sustainability and conservation are popping up in media and conversations throughout Sonoma County, a leader in environmental action.

Santa Rosa Junior College students and community members gathered April 14 in the Bertolini Student Center to learn about the local challenges, opportunities and actions taken to decrease climate impacts.

Richard Engel, assistant program coordinator of Sonoma County’s General Services Department’s Energy and Sustainability Division, helps promote and deliver solutions necessary to mitigate environmental impact and prepare for climate change. Engel supports his department by tracking energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and performance of the county’s renewable energy systems. He uses this information to work with consultants to solve problems facing the county and influence future building projects.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” Engel said.

His measurements revealed employees’ commute to work is responsible for 50 percent of SCGSD’s greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings use 30 percent of the power and the remainder is from county vehicles. “The Big Three,” Engel said.

SRJC recognized the importance of tracking and recording its power expenditures. Facilities’ Energy and Sustainability Coordinator David Liebman has done a lot in preparation to work in tandem with the facilities’ master plan.

The facilities department has been working to equip all SRJC buildings with air conditioning energy management systems to automatically control building temperatures at a more economical and environmentally-friendly standard.

One of Liebman’s projects is quantifying SRJC’s metrics to produce reports that depict the school’s water and electricity use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions per month per year.

“I use the county and the state as inspiration, but we hope to be better than that,” Liebman said.

On SRJC’s Petaluma campus, the parking garage lights were recently changed to energy efficient LED bulbs. From Liebman’s calculations, the previous bulbs were responsible for 7 percent of the total electricity used on campus, which is the most expensive utility.

“It’s a good deal of savings,” he said. “Retrofits are some of the easiest things you can do as a college, and the payback is seen in two to three months.”

SRJC is among the most energy efficient community colleges in California, Liebman said.

Liebman recently conducted a paper towel and food waste audit in Doyle Library and Bertolini Student Center to compose a plan with the grounds department on how to reduce the amount of wasted food.

“Sustainability itself is just smart business,” Liebman said. “It’s paying for the full value of things in this world and not just having all these externalities that we’ll pay for because our economic system doesn’t encompass them.”