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Local Government Commission

Currents - A Quarterly Energy Newsletter For Local Governments

Winter 2012

California Center for Sustainable Energy

Center for Sustainable Energy California logo

The California Center for Sustainable Energy® (CCSE) is an independent voice on energy issues and a trusted, objective resource for information, technical advice, education and community outreach throughout California.

CCSE specializes in program design and management, clean energy workforce education, and technical assistance focused primarily on energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation.

CCSE works with local governments, utilities and other partners to bring energy policy to life in the marketplace, providing a one-stop resource where decision makers, from homeowners to legislators, can get the information and tools they need to make better energy choices and help create a more sustainable future.

Originally the San Diego Regional Energy Office (SDREO), the CCSE has grown from one employee in 1996 to 75 employees in 2011.

The SDREO was formed to implement the 1994 “San Diego Regional Energy Plan” from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). SDREO gained momentum, helping establish the short-lived San Diego power pool and receiving grants to manage energy efficiency programs and lead the research and development of the “San Diego Regional Infrastructure Study.” 

Between 2002 and 2006, SDREO was awarded administration of nine energy efficiency programs by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), was tasked by the legislature to administer the new Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) and established the region’s first energy education center, the San Diego Energy Resource Center.

In May 2007, SDREO became the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE). From a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy, CCSE expanded to include efforts in green building, transportation and climate change, and expanded its focus northward, serving other communities in California. 

Because of its work on the SGIP program, in 2007 CCSE became the only nonutility administrator of the California Solar Initiative (CSI). Shortly thereafter, the CPUC asked CCSE to develop and administer the Solar Water Heating Pilot Program, which has since been expanded to a statewide incentive program known as CSI-Thermal.

In 2009, CCSE was selected to administer the California Air Resources Board’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a statewide incentive program providing rebates to zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Also in 2009, CCSE launched its Energy Advisory Services initiative to provide decision-making tools to public and private sector entities faced with complex energy choices. Responding to a need in the market, CCSE launched the Green Career Network in 2009.

CCSE ramped up its work in residential energy efficiency in 2009, preparing to supply the workforce training needs of the retrofit marketplace, and signing on to support California’s Energy Upgrade California program and the Department of Energy’s BetterBuildings program — both initiatives to promote whole house energy efficiency with the management of five related workforce development and marketing and outreach programs.

Better Buildings logo Energy Upgrade California logo

Today CCSE is the premier BPI trainer in the San Diego region, and provides a multitude of business support services to the local contractor community, as well as program services to San Diego Gas & Electric.

CCSE provides research and implementation support to local governments and facilitates forums to address market barriers to clean energy adoption such as permitting, financing and infrastructure planning.


CCSE’s current efforts include:

  • Cultivating a sustainable market for whole-home energy upgrades through a variety of Energy Upgrade California programs in San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties by providing contractor training and mentorship, testing targeted marketing strategies and conducting behavioral studies and innovative outreach pilots.
  • Integrating diverse data and information that empower local governments and other stakeholders to better understand the complex and dynamic environment that governs sustainability issues, such as a San Diego Regional Energy Mapping Project that combines building data with socio-demographic and energy-consumption information into a single interface.
  • Growing the solar marketplace in San Diego as the only nonutility to administer a major segment of the California Solar Initiative and the Self-Generation Incentive Program, supplying support and training for homeowners, businesses, the solar industry and local governments.
  • Accelerating adoption of electric vehicles through rebate programs, such as the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and the San Diego Airport Vehicle Rebate Program, and providing technical assistance and regional planning to help local governments and entities in California to deploy alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Achieving a clean energy future requires integrated strategies that take a holistic approach to energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation. CCSE focuses consumers on their overall energy consumption and broad actions for better energy use with efforts such as Reduce and Produce™ and the High Performance Home Fueling Station™ that combine multiple measures such as home energy efficiency, rooftop solar and electric vehicles.
  • Listening to and working alongside a diverse group of stakeholders is the best and only path to create change for a clean energy future and design quality programs. CCSE’s efforts in working with solar contractors, industry associations, regulators and legislators helped lead to the passage of Senate Bill 585 that added funds to allow the California Solar Initiative to achieve its goals. Stakeholder feedback on our Airport Vehicle Rebate Program saved it and sent participation soaring.
  • Incentive programs are about more than money. Giving rebates is critical to opening doorways to sustainable energy use, but they also create a dialog and feedback loops for customers, contractors, industry leaders and policy makers to discuss and exchange ground-level information.

CCSE presents a wide range of smart energy solutions and information through its website, free workshops, public events and exhibits, featuring the San Diego Energy Resource Center (ERC) and the mobile CCSE Residential Energy Roadshow. The 5,560-square-foot ERC is a joint program of CCSE and San Diego Gas & Electric, with funding from ratepayers through the California Public Utilities Commission.

The ERC and the Residential Energy Roadshow (launched in 2011) both feature interactive, hands-on displays demonstrating and comparing energy-saving technologies, devices and products. The ERC also hosts free, public workshops for everyone from first-time homeowners to expert facility managers and contractors. A lending library offers books, periodicals, DVDs and tools for residential and commercial — also free of charge.

roadshow image

CCSE's Residential Roadshow travels to events throughout San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties


No other entity is quite like CCSE, however, other non-profits implement local government utility partnerships including:

High Sierra Energy Foundation operates the High Sierra Energy Leader partnership with Southern California Edison and Bishop, the Town of Mammoth Lakes, Inyo County and Mono County.

San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Office is the administrator of the Valley Innovative Energy Watch partnership that includes Hanford, Lindsay, Porterville, Tulare, Visalia, Woodlake, Kings County and Tulare County.

Sierra Nevada Energy Watch is a administered by the Sierra Business Council dedicated to providing innovative energy efficiency solutions for local governments and businesses in Sierra Nevada communities including the counties of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Sutter, Tuolumne, and Yuba.

Sustainable Napa County administers the Napa County Energy Watch partnership that includes American Canyon, Calistoga, Napa, Saint Helena, Yountville and Napa County.

The Energy Coalition is a nonprofit organization that administers the Community Energy Partnership that includes Brea, Corona, Irvine, Moreno Valley, San Bernardino (city), Santa Clarita and Santa Monica.

Other examples of regional energy efforts include those operated by councils of government, counties, and through joint powers agreements.


The California Center for Sustainable Energy works where policy meets the market and provides a vital feedback loop and connecting force in the region and throughout the state to bring about our clean energy future faster. For more information and workshop listings, visit or call 1-866-SDENERGY.