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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, January 4, 2010, 4:25 am

2010 Trends: Counties ramping up emissions efforts

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    Energy efficiency, electric cars to be key to region’s climate-protection plans

    NORTH BAY – North Bay actions to meet state and local goals in the next five to 10 years for putting a lid on human-caused climate change are poised to heat up this year.

    Transportation-related emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change account for half or more of such emissions in the Bay Area, according to regional air-quality officials. Second to that are calculated emissions from energy use in homes and businesses. So local efforts to turn back the dial on emissions are focusing on changing the mix of vehicles, transportation habits and energy efficiency in structures.

    Sonoma County

    In line with reducing emissions from buildings and transportation, Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority will be focusing this year on expanding the nationally recognized energy-efficiency project financing program as well as installing a network of charging stations for the planned arrival of a fleet of electric cars this fall.

    “The goal is to retrofit 80 percent of the buildings in the county to have a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency performance,” said David Brennan, climate protection coordinator.

    The county’s governments have set a more aggressive carbon-cutting goal than the state, calling for a 25 percent reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2015.

    The authority and the Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign plan this spring to expand the reach of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program for financing property retrofits. Santa Rosa Junior College and the Workforce Investment Board are developing curriculum for  certified building performance contractor and HERS-2 professional energy-efficiency certification programs.

    “We need to develop protocols for loading order, which would be customized so the property owners would spend the least amount for the greatest efficiency,” Mr. Brennan said.

    Also to be part of the discussion on green-building standards this year will be potential for standardizing such policies countywide.

    And funding is still being sought for charging stations to support the County of Sonoma’s deal with Nissan Motor Corp. to bring up to 1,000 electric vehicles into the county starting as early as October.

    Marin County

    In Marin, multi-pronged efforts to increase building energy performance and take much of the county population to renewable local energy are set to build momentum this year.

    The Marin Climate & Energy Partnership, which is made up of a number of Marin governments and agencies, has released a draft  countywide mandatory green-building ordinance created with input from real estate and building industry professionals. Local governments are set to consider the draft guidelines from Marin Green Building, Energy Retrofit and Solar Transformation (BERST) program early in 2010.

    Meanwhile, the Marin Energy Authority has been getting input from Sonoma County and other locales that have set up an AB 811 financing program.

    Napa County

    Key to a climate-action plan for Napa County set to take shape in early 2010 are decreasing the number of vehicle miles traveled in Napa Valley and the amount of electricity and natural gas consumed to heat, cool and light its structures, according to Eliot Hurwitz.

    Mr. Hurwitz is program manager for transportation, land use and climate with the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency, which is made up of local government representatives.

    The agency board on Dec. 16 released a draft climate action framework that will set the stage for formal, detailed local measures. The document is posted at sites.google.com/site/nctpawebsite/
    draft-napa-countywide-climate-action-framework.

    “Our framework has a countywide greenhouse gas inventory and over 50 broad categories of action that all the cities and county agreed what they should do but stopped short of saying what each jurisdiction will do,” Mr. Hurwitz said. He pointed to guidelines set to take effect in January for use of climate action plans in analysis of projects under the California Environmental Quality Act.

    The 129-page draft plan, released Dec. 16, contains six goals and 53 actions intended to reduce projected emissions by 30 percent countywide, and by as much as 49 percent in American Canyon, to achieve 1990-level emissions by 2020. Public presentations and hearings on the draft climate framework are planned for January and February.

    Top emissions sources, based on modeling by MIG of Berkeley and the Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign, were transportation at 53 percent of county emissions and structures 35 percent. Because of challenges with quickly reducing emissions from transportation, improving building energy efficiency is projected to make up 67 percent of the emissions reductions needed to meet the 2020 goal, according to the document.

    In January, the agency is set to request proposals to revise the 2003 countywide bicycle plan as well as craft detailed bike plans for Napa, Calistoga and St. Helena. A route for a class 1 bike path, or one separated from road traffic, is being designed to run from Calistoga to Napa, eventually ending at the Vallejo ferry terminal. In late February the agency plans to solicit bids to build the first mile of the Napa County Vine Trail along Highway 29 through Yountville backed by $1 millon in federal economic stimulus funds.

    “The objective is to have over 10 percent of all transportation trips by bicycle in the next 20 years,” Mr. Hurwitz said. “Another 10 percent would be by walking, and the city of Napa has potential for being very pedestrian-friendly.”

    Also part of the framework’s focus on improving building efficiency is the creation of an AB 811 financing program. County staff are set to report to the Board of Supervisors in April on options, such as the California First statewide program the county has been considering joining in the fall.

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