On May 15, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa celebrated the launch of the L.A. Department of Water and Power’s Small Business Direct Install (SBDI) energy efficiency program at Supermercado Latino, a neighborhood market near Memorial Coliseum in South Los Angeles. The market received free retrofits that will save it 44 percent on utility bills while helping reduce L.A.’s reliance on coal power. SBDI is one of the key initiatives won by RePower LA, a coalition committed to saving Angelenos money on their energy bills, reducing dependency on dirty coal and creating local, career-path jobs for L.A.’s hardest-hit areas. RePower LA has also been instrumental in the creation of the Home Energy Improvement Program (HEIP) and the Utility Pre-Craft Training program (UPCT).
“The cleanest, cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use,” said Villaraigosa. “The Small Business Direct Install program helps reduce the carbon footprint of small businesses that would otherwise be unable to afford energy audits and retrofits.”
Through the SBDI, LADWP provides free energy audits to small businesses that consume less than 30kW of electricity, and then funds and installs the recommended energy efficiency upgrades. Businesses can see if they qualify for the program by visiting the LADWP website.
“LADWP is very excited to offer this program to our small business customers to help them save energy and money. Many small businesses, such as the Supermercado Latino, are among our hard-to-reach customers who can greatly benefit from energy efficiency upgrades,” said David Jacot, Director of Energy Efficiency for LADWP. “LADWP is aggressively expanding energy efficiency programs to reach all of our customers as part of our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition out of coal power.”
Elsa Barboza, campaign director of Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE), an anchor member of the RePower LA Coalition, cited the job creation benefits of SBDI. “The workers who will be doing the upgrades are IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] electricians that have benefited from labor-management-sponsored apprenticeship programs. That means they will be trained workers who can perform quality work that will result in real savings to customers. It also means we are investing in good jobs that can support families here in Los Angeles.”
SBDI, which could assist up to 40,000 small businesses, is part of the LADWP’s expanding energy portfolio, which is helping Los Angeles move away from coal power by 2025. The LADWP is on track to meet or exceed the California state goal of 10 percent reduction in energy use by 2020, and has more than doubled its investment in energy efficiency in 2012 and 2013. LADWP is also finalizing an agreement with the Southern California Gas Company that will provide gas and water efficiency measures for small businesses, resulting in even more savings for customers.
“We are grateful for the savings we will realize from our free LADWP audit and retrofits,” said Brad Min, manager of Supermercado Latino. “We can use the money saved to expand our store and continue to provide healthy food to our neighborhood.”
Supermercado Latino is also part of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s (LAFPC) Healthy Neighborhood Markets Network. The market is located in a region of South L.A. considered a “food desert” because of the lack of full-service grocery stores or farmer’s markets. The program provides trainings focused on marketing, merchandising, product procurement, store design, finance options and management for fresh food products.
The LAFPC also manages the Community Market Conversion program, which outfits convenience stores to carry fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved communities. Seven full-scale store conversion projects are currently underway and are expected to be complete within the year. Mock-ups of the conversions were on display at the press conference.
“It’s great to connect our work through the Community Market Conversion Program to the new energy efficiency opportunities for small businesses through LADWP,” said Paula Daniels, Senior Adviser to the Mayor on food policy and Chair of LAFPC. “We are able to see holistic, transformative change on a neighborhood level: bringing jobs, environmental conservation and healthy food to our communities where it is needed most.”