Greening the Bottom Line 2012

California Companies Save Money by Reducing Global Warming Pollution
Released by: Environment California Research & Policy Center

Executive Summary

Reducing global warming pollution is critical to protecting California’s environment, but doing so can also deliver big rewards for our state’s economy.

All across California, businesses, farms, government agencies, schools and nonprofits are demonstrating that action to reduce heat-trapping emissions can improve competitiveness and strengthen the bottom line. Energy efficiency measures and clean energy projects reduce waste, cut energy costs, limit exposure to fossil fuel price spikes, and attract environmentally aware customers.

This report highlights eight organizations that have made investments in clean energy solutions, together reducing their emissions of global warming pollution by the equivalent of nearly 270 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year while saving approximately $3.60 million annually.[i]

The steps these organizations have taken to reduce their operating costs and reduce global warming pollution are quickly becoming the norm in the Golden State. California should continue to adopt and strengthen sensible policies that encourage clean energy and energy efficiency innovations, such as the Million Solar Roofs Initiative and the Electric Program Investment Charge. This will ensure that all of California’s communities will be able to make inroads into a clean, sustainable energy future.

Gills Onions – Oxnard

Gills Onions, a family-owned onion grower in Oxnard, installed a biogas energy system to turn its own crop waste into electricity. Using onion peels, the system generates 60 percent of the annual energy needs of the onion processing plant. The system has also greatly reduced truck trips formerly needed to haul away onion waste.

  • Gills Onions reduced emissions of carbon dioxide pollution by over 4 million pounds per year, helping California to fight global warming.
  • In 2010, Gills Onions saved $800,000 through energy savings and reduced labor and transportation costs.

Golden Valley Unified School District – Madera

Golden Valley Unified School District is using renewable energy to help combat the state budget crunch. It purchased a 1.1-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system that supplies 80 percent of the district’s total annual electricity consumption.

  • The solar array prevents 2.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution each year.
  • The school district expects to achieve up to $250,000 in cumulative energy savings by 2017 and up to $9 million in cumulative energy savings after 25 years of operation.

Anheuser-Busch InBev – Fairfield

Anheuser Busch installed a large, utility-scale 1.5-megawatt wind turbine at its Fairfield Brewery in 2011, adding to a 1.2-megawatt solar array and a biogas energy system fueled by brewing waste products. On a net annual basis, the turbine produces about 20 percent of the electricity needed at the plant.

  • The wind turbine reduces carbon dioxide pollution by 6 million pounds per year.
  • The wind turbine alone will reduce energy costs by $1.6 million to $2.5 million over a 20 year period.

Sonoma County Family YMCA – Santa Rosa

The Sonoma County Family YMCA installed a 273-kilowatt solar PV array in its parking lot. The solar array produces 80 percent of the facility’s electricity needs and also doubles as a shade structure for vehicles.  The YMCA has also installed energy-efficient lighting and an efficient pool heater.

  • The solar system will offset 219,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and reduce over 3,000 pounds of other unhealthy pollutants each year.
  • At the same time, the solar system will save up to $250,000 in energy costs over a 15-year period.

San Mateo Community College District – San Mateo County

The San Mateo Community College District, which consists of College of San Mateo, Cañada College in Redwood City and Skyline College in San Bruno, has built five LEED Gold certified buildings as part of a capital improvement plan. These buildings incorporate energy-efficient lighting, cool roofs, and digital temperature control systems to reduce energy consumption by as much as 34 percent compared to similar buildings constructed to code.

  • Energy efficiency improvements have eliminated 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution since 2007.
  • The new buildings reduced annual electricity costs by $275,000.

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar – San Diego

The Marine Corps considers energy independence to be a top priority, and it has pursued renewable energy projects to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels from the commercial power grid. The Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar is halfway towards a goal of producing all of its electricity from on-site sources by 2017, with the bulk of this energy coming from a 3.2-megawatt landfill methane gas plant.

  • MCAS Miramar is eliminating the equivalent of over 250 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution each year.
  • The base reduced its energy bills by an estimated $820,738 in 2012.

Marine Corps Base and Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton – San Diego County

Camp Pendleton has installed more than 2 megawatts of solar PV capacity throughout the base, including a 1.4-megawatt array constructed on top of a sealed-off landfill. The Air Station has also installed an innovative skylight system in several of its hangars and buildings, maximizing natural lighting and reducing energy usage.

  • Camp Pendleton’s renewable energy systems have reduced carbon dioxide pollution by over 8 million pounds through the first ten months of FY 2012, and the skylight systems eliminate nearly 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
  • Camp Pendleton has also saved $844,754 in energy costs through the first ten months of FY 2012, while the skylights save $103,000 in energy costs each year.

Clif Bar – Emeryville

At its headquarters building in Emeryville, Clif Bar has installed a 531-kilowatt “smart” solar array and solar water heating system. The company also uses recycled packaging materials to ship its products.

  • Clif Bar’s solar array and use of recycled packaging reduce carbon dioxide pollution by more than 8.7 million pounds per year.
  • The solar array reduces energy costs by $145,000 each year—savings that are expected to grow between 5-7 percent annually.

Policy Recommendations

By promoting strategies that reduce global warming pollution, California can position itself to become cleaner and more prosperous. California can also help businesses and consumers save money while creating jobs. Toward this end, California should:

  • Limit global warming pollution by implementing AB 32.
  • Auction 100 percent of emission allowances through the AB 32 cap-and-trade program and use revenues from auctions to support clean energy programs, energy efficiency, and clean transportation.
  • Promote large-scale energy efficiency improvements and distributed generation with financial incentives and expanded net metering policies.
  • Generate at least 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and increase the requirement going forward.
  • Work cooperatively with other states and the federal government to encourage and adopt similar global warming solutions.


[i] Aggregate annual greenhouse gas reductions and aggregate annual dollar savings were obtained by calculating the sum of the case studies’ annual figures.

The aggregate annual dollar savings figure is somewhat imprecise because Anheuser-Busch, Golden Valley Unified School District, and Sonoma County Family YMCA are saving money over multiple years through long term financing agreements. To obtain an average annual dollar savings figure for these entities, we divided the total cumulative dollar savings achieved over the length of the agreement by the number of years in the agreement. Because dollar savings achieved through typical financing agreements tend to be greatest near the end of their duration—with only modest savings near the beginning—the stated aggregate figure is likely to exceed the real dollar savings at the present time.

For MCB Camp Pendleton’s renewable energy systems, data was only available for the first ten months of fiscal year 2012. We obtained annual greenhouse gas reductions and dollar savings by calculating a ten-month average and applying it to the remaining two months of FY 2012 (August 2012 and September 2012); this figure represents an estimate and does not account for month-by-month variation in energy production.