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Saving on energy and giving youth jobs

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
November 30, 2018

The Rohnert Park Foundation’s small grants program gave Rising Sun Energy Center a $1,750 grant this year to conduct an open house event in Rohnert Park to showcase residential energy and water conservation improvements. The event was held this past summer but a report was recently released, showing the amazing results the organization was able to accomplish in 2018 in partnership with Sonoma County Energy Watch for their California Youth Energy Services (CYES) program.

“Our mission is to empower individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities,” says Melissa Bennett, Grant Associate for Rising Sun Energy Center. “This year was the fourth year that California Youth Energy Services (CYES) served Sonoma County. This year’s site office was located in Rohnert Park at Credo High School.”

The CYES program trains and employs local youth from 15 to 24 years old to perform energy efficiency and water conservation assessments and installations in local homes throughout six different Northern California counties, all at no cost to customers. The program is facilitated through Rising Sun Energy Center in partnership with cities and PG&E Energy Watch groups.

“We hire and train about twenty youth in each county,” says Bennett. “In teams of two, energy specialists go out into their community and they provide home energy assessments and install energy and conservation measures. They also do a home energy assessment which is emailed to the resident.”

Since 2000, CYES has served 46,691 customers and employed 1,842 young adults. To date, the program has saved over 137.5 million lifetime kWh and 3.17 million lifetime therms and prevented 113,342 metric tons of CO2 emissions. In Sonoma County alone 2,907 LED globe light bulbs, 735 LED flood lights, 216 LED night lights, 30 efficient-flow showerheads, 73 kitchen and bathroom aerators and 197 tier 2 advanced power strips were installed just this year. This led to the annual reduction of 65,225.76 kWh, 153 therms, and 826,680 gallons of water, preventing 49.2 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year.

While benefiting the environment, the program also benefits the youth who are employed through it, with 93 percent reporting an increase in overall skill development and 71 percent reporting an increase in their environmental sustainability knowledge. The valuable job experience the young adults gain through the program helps shape their future career choices and increases their prospective employability.

“We have created different levels (of employment),” says Bennett. “The first level is an Energy Specialist. Then you can get promoted to a LIFT, or Leader in Field Training. Those are primarily for youth who have already gone through one summer of CYES training and are now going for the next level. And then we have two summer program managers. It really creates a ladder of employment for youth.”

Recruitment of youth for the following year’s program begins in the fall, with events usually occurring in the winter and spring. Interested youth can review job postings on In addition, the wait list of residents requesting to receive a green house call also starts building in the fall, winter and spring before the program starts in the summer. Both renters and homeowners are able to receive the green house calls. Closer to the summer the teams begin calling residents on the wait list to schedule appointments for their visits.

“I wanted to convey our thanks to the City of Rohnert Park Foundation for the opportunity with this grant,” says Bennett “It’s really wonderful to bring in new donors to this program and start these new relationships. I’m excited to continue our work in Rohnert Park and Sonoma County for at least the next year.”