The County Voice

Innovative Counties Honored for their Sustainability Achievements

The Counties of Sacramento, Santa Barbara and San Diego each carried home three Beacon Spotlight Awards after being recognized by the Institute for Local Government at the CSAC Innovation Summit for their measureable achievements in reducing energy, natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions.

The County of Sacramento received two gold level Spotlight Awards for implementing retrofits in agency buildings that have resulted in an energy savings of 16-percent, and for achieving natural gas savings of 18-percent. The county received a platinum level award for completing more than 60 Sustainability Best Practice Activities. Sacramento County’s achievements are a result of innovative, practical and cost effective measures derived from the County’s Green Team. The team meets monthly to share opportunities, progress and plans on how to implement practical and cost effective measures in a very thoughtful and incremental way. Examples include using goats for weed control instead of gas lawnmowers, producing renewable energy using landfill gas and replacing more than 1,300 lighting fixtures with efficient LED lights to help save the county over $100,000 per year!

Santa Barbara County received one of each level award; a silver for reducing agency greenhouse gas reductions by 6%, a gold for agency energy savings of 11% and a platinum for Sustainability Best Practices Activities. Santa Barbara County reduced its carbon footprint and cut electricity costs by installing a $5.2 million solar array which powers many county buildings. Santa Barbara County also created an Agricultural Preserve Program to assist in the long term conservation of agricultural and open space lands. And for its employees, Santa Barbara County offers a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program to encourage the use of alternative methods of commuting to work. Employees can earn up to two days of additional vacation each year if they use alternative transportation at least 80% of the days worked in a pay period.

San Diego County received three platinum awards for reducing agency energy use by 23%, natural gas use by 22%, and agency greenhouse gas emissions by 22%. The impressive savings are a result of innovative practices and technologies such as the county’s new automated building control system which allows it to monitor and manage energy and water usage throughout many of its facilities from a centralized point. At just one of the five locations where this technology was deployed, the county saw an 11% reduction in energy in just one year! As a result, the county is looking to utilize this technology in other locations. The county also completed a water retrofit project at the Vista Jail that is expected to save approximately 21 million gallons of water or enough to supply 128 average households per year! 

These three counties share their best practices and data as a part of their participation of the Institute for Local Government’s Beacon Program. Since its inception in 2010 the Beacon Award program has served as a catalyst for implementing innovative and effective solutions addressing climate change at the local level and informing the community about these activities. The program honors local governments’ voluntary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and adopt policies and programs that promote sustainability. In addition to the annual awards ceremony, online feature videos and articles, the Beacon Program provides participating local agencies with support services and peer-to-peer learning opportunities such as webinars and small group discussions at conferences and online. Currently 62 counties and cities representing over 25% of California’s population participate in the Beacon Program. To find out more, visit

The Beacon Program is sponsored by the Institute for Local Government and the Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative (SEEC), an alliance to help cities and counties reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy. SEEC is a collaboration between three statewide nonprofit organizations, including the Institute for Local Government and California’s four investor-owned utilities.

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