Supporting Community Savings of Money & Energy

Our community’s current Energy Action Plan is as ambitious as it is exciting.

Five years ago, the Board of Supervisors started a countywide race. In 2019, they collectively gave the citizens of Nevada County a goal, with a total of 16 years to reach it. We are now 25% of the way through the challenge.


The three primary goals:

1) Reducing our electricity use through conservation and efficiency

2) Reducing our use of natural gas/propane through conservation and efficiency

3) Reducing our use of water through conservation and efficiency

The reasons for these countywide goals were clear:

We save our community money, which then recirculates within our community. Normally, money spent on energy leaves the community. Through conservation and efficiency, we keep it here instead.

We create local jobs by “spending money to save money” on energy upgrades, enhancing property values, while improvements pay for themselves through savings. We strengthen our local economy, protecting us against outside forces beyond our control.

We also help Nevada County become more resilient to extreme weather events that increasingly occur in our rural, forested, foothill elevations. Being able to physically produce and store our own energy and water has been key for many people, and helps build community resiliency.

All of this improves our local quality of life and basic comforts, while keeping us safer and stronger during times of community stress, building independence with a sense of shared identity and togetherness using local energy and water as our lifeline.


So what’s the difference between conservation and efficiency? For many, conservation and efficiency mean the same thing. After all, they accomplish the same goal: using less.

However, the distinction between the two is generally thought of this: “conservation” is when you choose to not use energy at all, and “efficiency” is describing the choice to go ahead and use energy but to use as little as possible.

For example, conservation is deciding to not turn a light on at all, instead using natural light. Efficiency is when you go ahead and turn a light on, but use a low wattage bulb of an efficient nature.

Conservation then returns again when you turn it off instead of leaving it needlessly on.

So, conservation is usually referring to our individual behaviors and habits. While efficiency is more often describing low-energy-using objects. Both are needed to achieve our countywide goals.


NevCo Energy Miner

The Board of Supervisors have asked us to reach a finish line that might sound surprising, but quickly becomes realistic and attainable once broken down into small annual bits over a sixteen-year period.

For example, our collective electricity use from PG&E will be cut in half, reduced 51%, between 2019 and 2035.

Now, imagining using half the power we do today may sound alarming. But when broken down into a small manageable annual increment, that turns into a tiny fraction, at 5% per year.

Said another way, go ahead and continue to use 95% of the power you did the year before, and just find 5% savings to focus on annually. That’s doable.

We’re not talking about switching to caves and sweaters. We’re talking about using the technology between our ears to stop wasting so much energy to begin with. Conservation can power you through your first few years to our goal.

Do you usually leave a room light on for 6 hours a day? Run it 18 mins less and you have reduced its energy use 5%. Poof.

Do the same for a couple more years, then switch to more efficient bulbs for more savings. Instead of sending money to PG&E, spend it at the local hardware store. Presto!

Did you know electronics stay on even when they’re “off?” They continue to use power waiting for you to press a remote to turn them fully on. Research shows that over the lifetime of a DVD player, TV, or other home entertainment device, fully 90% of the energy used during its life actually occurs when it’s “off.”

This is why power strips for home entertainment systems are more low-hanging fruit. Plug everything in and turn it on when you need it. Instant easy savings. No financing, permits, installers, or incentive programs needed!

Simple everyday actions can add up to your 5% reduction per year. And reductions in power use help offset annual hikes in energy costs. Keep money here.

For more tips, check out the county’s new webpage on energy efficiency, at We’ll cover it more next month!

From Nevada County’s Energy Action Plan Working Group, a group made up of county staff, nonprofits, business leaders, and local citizens, who meet monthly to further the countywide goals

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