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Energy costs down at Martinez Unified

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Unified School District (MUSD) taxpayers may be happy to learn that the district’s investment in solar installations has lowered operating costs as expected.

It is satisfying to see a new school building built with bond funds, but lower school PG&E bills are not that noticeable.

Sage Renewables, the company that installed solar PV (photo voltaic) systems at nine MUSD facilities, brought graphic images of district savings from 2013 through 2015 to an April board meeting, and reported on the equipment status.

The Solar Performance Management Report was based on data provided by PG&E and company records. It revealed that in the first year they were in place, district-wide, the PG&E costs were $334,000 less than costs in 2012.

The Sage presentation also highlighted the fact that the price of energy provided by PG&E has continued to rise. The January 2017 increase followed two rate increases in 2015 and rate structuring.

The graphs and charts show that the cost savings was different at each school/site. Some schools increased energy consumption. For example, Alhambra High School energy consumption has increased by 14 percent since 2012, according to the report.

That could be explained by an increase in technology use, remodeling upgrades and now AHS school is adding classrooms. The district will be working to determine the cause of the increase.

However, the aggregate district-wide energy use in 2013 was 67 percent lower than it would have been without the solar. The use was 61 percent less in 2014, and 67 percent less in 2015.

The energy consumption and savings were impacted by the shut-down of the former maintenance yard system while the new Vicente/Briones campus was under construction. That is being reconnected.

Accordingly, MUSD PG&E bills have gone down. Over the three years reported, the district paid $697,000 less than it would have without the solar systems.

MUSD Chief Business Official Diane Deshler, agreed that there was a significant cost savings. “Without the reduced (PG&E) costs, we would have had to look for ways to budget for what would have been higher bills.”

The board is requesting a similar 2016 report, and a report every year from now on. They will take a look at reported consumption increases since 2012 at specific schools, explore more energy saving strategies, and explore the idea of installing more PV systems.

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