2015 Project of the Year: California Conservation Corps' Energy Corps

Energy Corps
California Conservation Corps

In November 2012, California voters passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39), establishing a fund to support projects throughout the state that improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools. One such project is California Conservation Corps’ Energy Corps: a program launched in the fall of 2013 to help California schools conduct energy surveys and reduce energy consumption, while also providing Corpsmembers the opportunity to gain technical training in the energy field. 

The Energy Corps model is based on the idea that much of the energy work typically performed by engineers and energy analysts can, and should, be performed by entry-level employees. The goal is to open up new positions for young adults within the rapidly expanding energy efficiency industry. Energy Corps provides Corpsmembers with the skills and knowledge to complete these entry-level tasks and pursue advanced training. To date, nearly 250 California Conservation Corps (CCC) Energy Corps members have completed an 80-hour training in the fundamentals of energy use and energy efficiency; nearly 60 have completed an 80-hour course in basic lighting; 84 completed OSHA 10-hour training; and 76 finished the 12.5 hour Energy University online course.

Energy Corps members learn to work in teams to complete “whole building” Energy Opportunity Surveys, which evaluate the interior and exterior of a structure to identify current energy usage. Corpsmembers then visit schools, inspecting each building’s lighting, windows, heating, and ventilation and air-conditioning systems. The data the Corpsmembers collect about each school’s energy consumption is analyzed by energy industry experts who quantify potential energy saving opportunities and provide recommendations for how schools can implement energy and cost-saving measures.

In Energy Corps’ first year, Corpsmembers from 12 Crews in 11 locations conducted Energy Opportunity Surveys of 900 schools. They evaluated 7,400 structures and 36 million square feet of building space. The data from these surveys has allowed analysts to recommend actions schools can take to save more than 50 million kWh annually and millions of dollars. Not to mention, many of the schools where Energy Corps works are in low-income communities. Without the services provided by Energy Corps, these schools would likely not be able to hire an outside firm to conduct an energy survey, which is required in order to receive state funding to pursue energy efficiency projects.

In addition to conducting surveys, Energy Corps members also have the skills to install basic energy efficiency retrofits at the schools, including lighting and control upgrades. Corpsmembers also complement their training by providing presentations about energy conservation to students at the schools where they serve.

Through Energy Corps, the CCC is tackling some of America’s Greatest Challenges – including youth unemployment and climate change – by creating public service work and youth training opportunities in the energy sector.