County pays roughly $1 million annually for electric bills; what can be done?

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Plumas County spends roughly $1 million a year on its PG&E bills, but there are ways to slash those costs.

The Board of Supervisors learned about such opportunities July 18 when they received a presentation by representatives of Engie, an energy consulting firm that had been working with the county for the past six months.

According to its website, Engie is a global leader in low-carbon energy and services, with 96,000 employees and 170 years of heritage. The organization has an office in Sacramento.


“You want to work with someone who has been around and will be around,” said Ashu Jain, an engineer and senior manager with the firm. Jain said his company only works in the public sector and is the largest provider of such services in the state. He supplied the board with a list of multiple counties and their projects. “We have done more county projects in California than any other company,” he said.

He was joined in the presentation by Heather Benner, also an engineer and a project director. Benner said they begin their work by looking at utility bills and determining which departments are the highest consumers of energy and then look at the utilization in the space. “What drives these projects is the savings,” Benner said.

“This is by no means a comprehensive and complete list,” she added as she presented an overview of various departments and their annual electric bills, along with notes about lighting, transformers, generators, etc.  “This is a good first winnowing step,” she said. For example, the annual electric bill for the courthouse annex is $185,995, the courthouse is $71,885, and the Sheriff’s Office is $46,453.

Benner outlined several steps that could be taken to lower energy costs: upgrading interior and exterior lighting; upgrading streetlights; upgrading heating and air conditioning units; replacing the courthouse central cooler and boiler; upgrading motors and pumps; adding generators; replacing transformers at the annex; adding solar canopies over parking areas at the annex; and installing a ground-mount solar project in Crescent Mills.


In discussing the installation of solar panels at the annex, Benner said the benefits would be three-fold: covered parking, overhead lighting and power generation.

As for Crescent Mills, she said the installation would provide cost savings for the entire county system. Supervisor Kevin Goss noted that the area was prone to flooding. Jain said that if it could be made to work it would provide additional cost savings for the county.

Jain estimated that it would take four to months to finalize the costs of the upgrades, which could be paid for by the savings on utility bills. “You are redirecting your funds to pay PG&E less and pay for the equipment,” he said. It’s estimated that the county could save 50 percent on its electric bills.

The preliminary financial analysis indicates an estimated project cost of $14.8 million. The county would contribute $500,000 with the remainder to be financed. Net savings of nearly $15.5 million are projected over the next 30 years.


County Administrator Debra Lucero is a proponent of the plan. “It’s basically a way to finance all of our maintenance,” she said. Lucero likes that Engie has an office in Sacramento and that they have devoted so much time to studying the county and its needs.

District 3 Supervisor Tom McGowan said, “You have identified and codified every piece of equipment … this is a way of paying for virtually every piece of equipment that needs to be replaced.”

Supervisor Kevin Goss said that he has known that the county’s equipment was aging and wondered what could be done. “Fantastic presentation,” he said.

Although some of the supervisors indicated that they wanted to pursue this, it wasn’t listed on the agenda as an action item, so formal approval to proceed with the analysis will be part of a future meeting.

5 thoughts on “County pays roughly $1 million annually for electric bills; what can be done?

  • Thank you Mr Goss, it’s an aging system, you are correct. Its nice for once to hear no one said it’s deferred maintenance. You can’t replace aging equipment if the funding isn’t there. It’s called deferred funding. Nice to see the county is finally taking a step forward to take care of their infrastructure.

  • It would probably be cost effective to hire an in house energy engineer/specialist and along with existing staff find grants that could pay for the upgrades. After the upgrades there is still a need to maintain the new infrastructure and track it. I am a facility supervisor and can tell you that even new equipment doesn’t always work as it should.

    • Maybe use some solar. Street lights!
      Lighting in buildings! Our solar reduced our PGE payments to credits that were owed to us. Some local businesses are using solar. Research what is working for them. Our school is going solar.
      Just a thought

  • Also, what about turning out lights, turning down heat, air conditioning and all electric – using equipment when not in use! Might be minimal, but every little bit helps!

  • Question: Is the $186k electric bill at the court annex due to the much acclaimed biomass plant not working as advertised? The one county paid $300k to build it?

Comments are closed.