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March 27, 2017

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California Green School Summit Highlights Prop. 39 Funding at Mid-Course

 

In November 2012, California voters approved Proposition 39, which changes the state tax structure for some multi-state businesses and directs the proceeds over the next five years to support energy efficiency and clean energy projects in schools and other public buildings. Most of the proposals on the table direct the funds to energy-saving projects in K-12 schools.

The analysis by the Climate Policy Initiative of the original legislation, Targeting Proposition 39 to Help California’s Schools Save Energy and Money, recommended that Proposition 39 funding would be most effective as a “sweetener”. Districts are encouraged to add more energy-saving measures to already planned renovations, in particular, energy-saving projects receiving state modernization grant funds.

The 10th Annual Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit and Exposition at the Pasadena Convention Center featured a panel entitled Prop. 39 ABC & XYZ. Panelists included Elizabeth Shirakh, Prop 39 Program Manager, California Energy Commission; Samer Alzubaidi, former Director, San Bernardino City USD/Facility Design and Planning; Christos Chrysiliou, Director of Architectural & Engineering Services, LAUSD Facilities Services Division; Ying Wang, Architect/Sustainability Consultant, Okapi Architecture (Moderator).

 

L-R: Ying Wang, Elizabeth Shirakh, Samer Alzubaidi, Christos Chrisiliou

The panelists noted a variety of scenarios: a district applied for Prop. 39 funding and is ready to implement construction but there are there are gaps in construction cost and scope between the Prop. 39 audit and the real Prop. 39 project costs. They include compliance with the Department of the State Architect requirements; nonexistent yet potential rebates/incentives, the district management fee, and construction activities limited by school schedules.

Panelist Shirakh offered a brief overview of highlights including program activities, and access to information about Prop. 39. She noted that $1.4 billion has been allocated to K-12 schools, with the California Department of Education responsible for funds distribution. The allocation formula is now posted at the CDE website. Both charter schools and traditional public schools are eligible, based on based on size, average daily attendance, and demonstrated financial needs.

Many schools are only beginning to plan, or have not filed an Energy Expenditure Plan. The California Energy Commission recently lowered the Savings-To-Investment Ratio (SIR), which will make the plan easier to implement.

Shirakh noted the timeline: guidelines were adopted in 2014 and revised three times to make the program most effective. Consequently, rather than having a five year life, Prop. 39 is actually an eight year program given the issues relative to implementation.

Accomplishments to date include the amount of interest and activity generated: by November 2016, 1233 energy expenditure plans filed with an 88% approval rate; 14,299 energy measures approved for lighting, HVAC, and solar installations. Allocations are expense-based. When fully implemented, there is an expectation of $60 million annual energy savings through the actions of the K-12 schools.

Panelist Alzubaidi, who transitioned during the 2016-17 school year to Moreno Valley USD, presented a case study from his previous post at the San Bernardino USD. San Bernardino is the seventh largest school district in California.

Alzubaidi noted the importance of a team approach, the strong participation of program managers, campus and municipal energy entities; and design and energy professionals who are adept at energy conservation. In his judgment, school districts benefitting the most from Prop. 39 funds include schools with a strong need for modernization; facilities with high energy usage; central plant quality maintenance and upgrades. SBUSD’s first expenditure plan totaled $2.8 million. The second phase totaled $884,900.

During implementation, SBUSD received proposals from engineers and design firms that included comprehensive bid packages. Southern California Edison offered energy efficiency incentives. The bidding was much larger than available funding, so SBUSD revised the Statement of Work during the bid/award process.

At LAUSD, Panelist Chrysiliou represents the second largest district in the U.S. An examination of District facilities conditions underscores the need for initiatives such as Prop 39.

District facilities constitute 75 million square feet of buildings. The average school is 50 years old. LAUSD’s strategy is to maintain expenditures at a reasonably low level during ramp up and increase funding during construction.

Types of energy efficiency enhancements include: lighting, HVAC controls, electrical and energy storage. LAUSD has received $125 million in Prop. 39 funding. Projected savings is critical component to sell the project to District administrators. Also important is the formula for allocating to areas of greatest need. The project team is projecting a 28% energy savings.

Lessons learned from the project include understanding the challenges faced by companies contracted to do the work; understanding how to maximize contractors’ resources through local school leadership collaboration; and finding ways to streamline the energy efficiency rebate process.

According to Chrysiliou, other factors include District and contractor alignment with the state architect; streamlining the District review and approval process; and understanding the mandates of the new title 24 requirements.  Charretes that serve as contractor partnering sessions are also valuable.

Successful Prop. 39 projects recognize that all levels in the education system are very supportive of energy efficiency initiatives. Showing the results of energy savings is critical. Another demonstrable benefit to the great community is job creation. District administrators are influenced by general fund savings, an improved learning environment, lower maintenance costs, and student energy auditor training.

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