By Gary Quackenbush
Ex-Sebastopol executive coordinating programs on greenhouse-gas cuts
SANTA ROSA – Former Sebastopol City Manager David Brennan has assumed a new role as the regional climate protection coordinator with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.
His task is to work with the local leadership of the cities, county, SCTA, the Sonoma County Water Agency, local nonprofits and others to define roles, develop partnerships, coordinate policy development and to leverage shared resources.
The goal of the Regional Climate Protection Coordination Program is to organize and focus countywide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Sonoma County to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015 and to ensure that local goals are in line with those mandated by AB 32 and SB 375.
“All of these entities have been reviewing the various federal stimulus programs and legislative bills to see how these resources can be brought to Sonoma County to help achieve its objectives. Until recently, each organization has been acting independently, but now there is recognition that increased coordination will result in greater efficiencies and regional benefits,” said Mr. Brennan, who was appointed to the position last spring.
Last May, city managers discussed ways to reduce competition for available resources, set priorities and eliminate duplication when implementing climate protection plans.
The Regional Climate Protection Coordination Program was conceived and endorsed by the Sonoma County Mayors and Council Members Association and all nine cities as well as by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
The SCTA board was selected by all local municipalities to serve as a policy making forum for exchanging information, planning future directions and to serve as catalyst for collective action.
“There must be a high level of trust among all partners so everyone’s interests are represented. I’m working with these entities as well as PG&E, the Climate Protection Campaign and the business community to gather input so we can have a draft coordination plan ready for review by August. We want to obtain final SCTA board approval of the plan and specific recommendations by year end.”
While the transportation sector is responsible for 60 percent of GHG emissions, buildings are the biggest energy users. One aspect of the plan, which is already being developed, is a countywide building retrofit program to help owners find ways to make commercial and residential buildings more energy efficient.
The ultimate goal is to retrofit 80 percent of the buildings in Sonoma County to achieve a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency. The program will include energy audits that will identify building deficiencies and make recommendations to the owners as to the best returns on investment costs. An energy rating system is also being discussed to certify buildings according to energy efficiency criteria.
“Homes have greater selling features if they have upgraded carpeting, fresh paint, granite countertops and curb-appeal landscaping, so why not establish a method for evaluating properties based on the health, comfort and financial benefits associated with energy use,” he said.
Retrofits typically involve installing higher R-factor insulation, dual pane windows, caulking gaps in the building envelope, and sealing HVAC duct leaks along with similar improvements.
According to Mr. Brennan, a building retrofit program of this scale could create upwards of 2,000 new county jobs in, or related to, the construction industry.
“Training is being conducted to give people energy auditing and building retrofitting skills because there simply aren’t enough people qualified to conduct such procedures today.”
A Pay As You Save program is seen as another way to save energy and water by enabling people to make improvements and acquire water efficient appliances that are repaid on monthly utility bills.
The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program enables property owners to obtain loans up to $5,000 to improve energy efficiency, reduce water consumption or install renewable systems. The payback on the loan is applied to the property tax statement as a voluntary assessment over five, ten or 20 year periods. Any unpaid portion of the loan stays with the property after the property is sold.
“The business sector is making effective capital investment decisions to achieve energy efficiencies and reductions in GHG emissions. For example, Dupont has reduced its global GHG emissions by 80 percent over the past five years saving $3 billion,” he said.
Many wineries have installed solar and have implemented water conservation measures without harming their competitiveness. The Sonoma County Wine Company decreased electric consumption by 29 percent and natural gas by 48 percent, saving $246,000.
The SCWA has adopted a goal to be carbon neutral by 2015. They have installed 4.5 megawatt renewable power systems to help achieve this goal.
Within the current federal energy bill is a program to be administered by the Department of Energy called Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance. This program, if adopted, would provide rebates up to $3,000 for demonstrated energy savings up to 20 percent, with another $1,000 granted for each additional five percent of improvement.
“We may have an opportunity to obtain DOE funding to implement a pilot project here in Sonoma County in advance of the nationwide program adoption,” he said.
“Sonoma County’s efforts to implement climate protection measures to reduce GHG emissions is operating well in advance of most U.S. cities and counties. Our mission is to embrace the challenge of what needs to be done and adapt to the changing availability of resources while continuing to build on the strength and viability of Sonoma County communities and the business economy.”
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