Monday, November 28, 2011

Powerful clean energy policy 'works out' in California

The California Energy Commission wants nothing less than a reduction in overall greenhouse gas in the state.

The agency's approach is multipronged but hinges on energy efficiency. The state seeks to reduce CO2 emissions about 20 percent to a target 426 million metric tons annually by 2020.

The question is: Can it be done? State leaders believe so and are encouraging local officials to join the effort. California's Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, passed in 2006, also sets a goal of 33 percent renewable energy generation by 2020.

Benchmarking energy

A key part of this plan involves going city by city and charting energy use. It's believed that once cities and counties learn how much they're actually spending on electricity, their leaders will do something about it, putting big power users on a diet and drafting sustainability plans that actually work.

"Decisions about community planning and land use, as well as transportation infrastructure and electricity infrastructure, have a dramatic impact on our ability to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions," says the state's Energy Action Plan update report from 2008.

Each local government in the state will be producing its own community-wide energy action plan, spelling out exactly how it will pursue sustainability, reduce waste, foster alternative energy and save its residents money.

Energy Action Plans

I read through a number of these plans looking for ideas. My nonprofit, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, has a grant to assist several small cities write plans and catalog, or "benchmark," their buildings according to utility meter to chart energy usage.

After perusing about seven of them, I started to see real strength in the phrasing -- as if these documents weren't just meant to collect dust on a shelf. Somebody plans to use them, and use them well.

The plan for one Los Angeles-area beach community pulled no punches. "Huntington Beach led the last energy revolution in Southern California with oil production over the last century and is poised to lead
the next clean energy revolution in Southern California as we prepare for the impacts from peak oil production and climate change."

My sister lives in nearby Hermosa Beach. The communities are known for being progressive.

The plan spelled out past successes and quantified savings. It also spelled out how to garner additional energy savings, citing the Rosenfeld Effect. Based on CEC commissioner Art Rosenfeld's groundbreaking policies now more than three decades old, the effect refers to how efficiency basically pays for future energy uses.

What's interesting is these plans actually have a very likely shot at getting accomplished what they were intended to do. Piedmont, Calif. Mayor Abe Friedman writes, "I am certain that with the guidance of this plan both the City government and Piedmont residents can together make meaningful changes in our everyday lives and operations to reduce our carbon footprint."

He sounds like he really believes it.

I'm starting to feel somewhat optimistic. After the trials and tribulations of two years trying to Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant money spent, I'm a little gun shy around energy efficiency projects.

Getting results

But this makes sense. Communities planning out their strategies.

Berkeley's plan also calls a spade a spade. Here it refers to the benchmarking practice: "The emissions inventory is useful for another important reason: it helps to remind us that we are both part of the global warming problem and part of the solution."

And not the Final Solution. I've been reading Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon Israeli spy novels again.

Photo: Bloomberg.com

2 comments:

Addyson said...

Setai Hotels
: Nice blog for Energy and Action plans.

Mike Nemeth said...

Thanks. I appreciate the comment. I was impressed by how these plans, which are often written and shelved, look like working documents. It's as if the officials involved really believe in what they're doing.