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California Youth Energy Services

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Teenagers working with California Youth Energy Services are turning urban neighborhoods into greener, healthier places to live by offering residents simple energy-saving repairs and advice.

California Youth Energy Services

Are you a PG&E customer in Marin, Alameda, or Contra Costa counties? Sign up for a free CYES "green house call" in your own home this summer, and support these youth while going green for free! Spots fill fast, so call 510-665-1501 x10 now!

Bearing gifts of CFL light bulbs and water-saving faucets, young workers engaged by California Youth Energy Services visit homes in their communities to conduct energy audits and offer simple energy-saving repairs. In so doing, they are creating greener, healthier neighborhoods and preparing themselves for green jobs. 

The program run by Rising Sun Energy Center of Berkeley, Calif., hires nearly 90 teenagers each summer from urban neighborhoods in nearby cities, trains them on people skills and energy efficiency practices, and sends them out to homeowners and renters who have requested energy audits.  

“Our aim is to reduce household gas and electricity use while training the next generation of environmental leaders,” said Jailan Adly, program director of Rising Sun Energy Center.  

Arriving in twos, the CYES teenagers measure the household electricity, gas and water consumption and then offer residents help in reducing this usage by switching out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs, installing water-saving faucet-heads, and offering retractable clotheslines to use instead of energy-gulping clothes dryers. 

The results are not only kilowatt hours of electricity and cubic meters of water saved, but community bonding from neighbors helping neighbors and self-esteem in the young people performing the services. 

“We are really committed to giving young people with barriers the chance to excel and gain skills,” said Jodi Pincus, executive director of Rising Sun Energy Center. 

(To watch this video of CYES in action go to

CYES recruits 15-to-22 year olds from local high schools and community centers, seeking kids who need opportunities. It offers them a summer job paying $9 to $10 an hour and a chance to make a difference in the world if they can prove they are committed to the task.  

The youth sometimes describe it as life-changing. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d probably be in the streets doing something negative,” said one CYES participant, Derrick Walker from Richmond, in a recent interview by CYES. 

The program has been so successful that in eight years, 400 teenagers have been trained as “energy specialists” and they’ve retrofitted more than 9,000 homes and 11 shelters.  From its first year involving 15 kids working on 200 homes in one city, the program now takes nearly 100 kids each summer from nine Bay Area communities and they audit and offer repairs on 2,100 households a summer. 

Local utilities fund the program. The Bay Area’s main electric and gas utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. compensates Rising Sun for every kilowatt hour of electricity and cubic meter of gas saved in the households audited. With that money, Rising Sun buys the CFL light bulbs and clotheslines and pays salaries. The local water utility, East Bay Municipal Utility District, also pays the organization based on water saved at households audited and it supplies the water-saving faucet fixtures.  

Thanks to state laws that require utilities to promote energy conservation and compensate for amounts saved, the program is a partnership between the utilities and the non-profit Rising Sun Energy Center, whose mission is focused on inspiring young people to believe they can make a difference in the environment. 

And what a difference they are making. 

Rising Sun and CYES figure the program has saved households about $2 million in utility costs and removed enough carbon from the air to be the equivalent of 3,000 cars taken off the road. 

“We are committed to saving energy and water, to training young people in the professional skills they need to be the leaders of the future and to lessening climate change,” Pincus said.

To learn more, contact Jodi Pincus, executive director of Rising Sun Energy Center at [email protected] or 510-665-1501 x11

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