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Strategic Energy Plan & Energy Efficiency Projects Help Manage San Diego Airport Energy Resources

San Diego Regional Airport Authority

San Diego, CA

The Strategic Energy Plan allows the San Diego Regional Airport Authority to establish more dependable energy sources and offset greenhouse gas emissions while containing costs. Energy efficiency and conservation projects, along with on-site generation and storage, and monitoring are key.

Topics Covered

Energy Efficiency
Energy Disruptions


Initial: Zero Upfront Cost


General Fund/Existing Public Funds


Project Status

Operational since 2022

Gov Champion

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority's Facilities Management Department

Problem Addressed

The Airport Authority is committed to building an enduring and resilient enterprise by effectively managing its financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities.

The Airport Authority recognizes the complex link between energy performance and the security of the airport enterprise and is keenly aware that this interdependence warrants a bold vision and strategy to ensure sustainability into the future. The Airport Authority must prepare for passenger growth, large development projects, and climate change variabilities in its energy management program. As critical infrastructure in the region, the airport requires dependable energy sources and as an organization committed to fiscal and environmental sustainability, the Airport Authority pursues energy efficiency and conservation projects and measures.

There are other challenges associated with implementing a strategic energy plan at our Airport. Below is a list of some and their solutions:

There is a complex link between energy performance and the security of the airport enterprise. This interdependence warrants a bold vision and strategy to ensure future sustainability. To secure a sustainable energy future, the Authority accepted its Strategic Energy Plan to rethink how the Authority manages energy resources and prepare for future changes to passenger numbers, local climate, and energy costs.

As a large consumer of energy in the region, the Airport’s utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions are high. As an agency committed to financial and environmental sustainability the Airport Authority is taking action to reduce energy consumption, produce and store clean energy, and use energy strategically. The Facilities Management Department’s Energy Manager, along with their team and other departments, is responsible for implementing strategies, projects, and programs within the Strategic Energy Plan. Strategies, projects, and programs have been implemented through Capital Improvement Projects and department budgets.

SAN utilizes a 12kv energy loop that increases capacity for renewables, battery storage, and promotes resilience while reducing utility costs. With only three utility meters, building-specific energy use data is not readily available for buildings within the energy loop. This proves challenging for monitoring and performance evaluation and as a result, the Authority is pursuing submeters and a smart monitoring dashboard software.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our passenger numbers, lighting retrofit projects had to be scheduled at times least disruptive to passenger flow and experience. With less passengers flying, the Facilities Management Department moved up the retrofit project schedule to take advantage of less busy terminals.

Solutions Used

The Strategic Energy Plan (STEP) allows the Airport Authority to establish more dependable energy sources and offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while containing costs as energy costs and passenger numbers will rise.

Energy efficiency and conservation projects, along with on-site generation and storage, and monitoring are key issues within the plan. In this case study, special emphasis is on energy efficiency projects.

In 2019, six Authority-driven energy efficiency lighting projects contributed to a significant decrease in Scope 2 emissions. These projects included: lighting retrofits around the Terminal 2 West fountain area and the Terminal 1 parking lot, LED fixture replacement of airfield and apron lighting, and lighting schedule modifications in Sunset Cove (Terminal 2 food court).

In 2020, the Facilities Management Department’s Electricians team retrofitted more than 300 fixtures with LEDs in the Terminal 2 East Lobby and in Terminal 2 West. The team took advantage of less passengers in the terminals during the COVID-19 pandemic by moving up their retrofit project so they could work during the daytime.

Additional and significant greenhouse gas reductions are the result of the Airport Authority’s enrollment in SDGE’s Eco-Choice Program. Thanks to this partnership agreement with SDGE, and onsite solar generation, 85% of the Airport’s energy use is sourced by renewable electricity.

The Airport Authority will upgrade the Central Utility Plant’s chilled water system leading to an 18% reduction in energy use, retrofit lighting to LEDs, and integrate electric sub-metering into a central energy dashboard to track detailed energy use and conservation efforts.



2019 energy efficiency projects and enrollment in SDGE’s Eco-Choice program led to a 68% reduction in 2019 Scope 2 emissions compared to 2018.


Specifically, the airfield and in-terminal energy efficiency lighting replacements have saved approximately 4,126,025 MBTU or 1,209,218kWh of annual energy use.


2020 LED lighting retrofits will provide up to 60% energy savings with a return on investment in less than a year.


The new lighting lasts longer (50,000 hours compared to 10,000 hours of fluorescent lighting) so maintenance costs will reduce.


Employees and passengers now enjoy more even light distribution from clean, modern fixtures.

Lessons Learned


Programs related to the STEP help reduce energy consumption, use electricity at appropriate or cost-effective times, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce electricity costs.


STEP programs enhance the employee and customer experience.


Challenges can be overcome with partnerships utility provider partnerships, inter-department collaboration, innovation and creativity, and board-approved goal setting.


Creating a strategy document that is thoroughly vetted creates the foundation, strategy, and framework for determining and achieving long term goals.

Something Unique

Even during the unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, a decline in passenger numbers, and tightening budgets, the Airport Authority continues to implement energy efficiency projects. The STEP’s embedded goals, strategies, and programs provide a roadmap for sustainable energy management for years to come.

Who Should Consider

Other airports, government agencies, and organizations with large energy consumption.

Last Updated

Jul 14th, 2022
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