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NORTH BAY, ROHNERT PARK -- In a conference featuring the region’s foremost experts in sustainability policy and business at least one theme was made abundantly clear -- climate change will force drastic and often difficult change at home and work, much of which will depend on collaboration.

(For copies of the panelists' PowerPoint presentations, click on the Resources tab at the top of this page.)

The Business Journal hosted a four-hour discussion on the sustainability movement during its second annual Going Green conference Thursday. Two panels and seven speakers addressed programs that have made the North Bay a national model, other initiatives in the pipeline and funding strategies for following the trend.

“The efforts we are making in the North Bay we hope will be a template for other counties and states designing sustainability efforts,” said panelist David Brennan.

The regional climate protection coordinator for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority discussed action priorities similar to those mentioned by Marin and Napa leaders at the conference: green building and retrofitting, transportation and renewable-energy creation and savings.

Though Sonoma is launching initiatives related to all three priorities, green building and retrofitting work has made the most progress. The county has implemented innovative land-use policies, and leaders intend to retrofit 80 percent of buildings in the county. To propel the effort, a funding mechanism, the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, and a green-collar work force training program are both under way.

Sonoma County Water Agency Public Information Officer Amy Bolten later in the conference highlighted the successes of the energy program so far, announcing that 700 projects have already been funded. The program is preparing to apply for more SCEIP funding from the Board of Supervisors later this month. The group is also planning to fund electric vehicle charging stations throughout the county.

Napa County Transportation Planning Agency Program Manager Eliot Hurwitz opened the Oct. 8 conference by outlining the valley’s draft action plan.

“We started our effort by bringing in partners from every city, and we’ve hammered out a plan we will submit to decision makers sometime in the next month or so,” he said.

Mr. Hurwitz said among the top projects, the county hopes to complete a downtown transit center, an expanded bus line and a protected bike line from Calistoga to the Vallejo ferry.

Next, Marin Climate & Energy Partnership Director Richard Schorske talked about the county’s initiatives related to renewable energy, specifically creating infrastructure for electric vehicles and tapping into wind, solar and geothermal resources. Among those efforts, eight of the 11 Marin County cities have agreed to purchase a portion of their energy from renewable sources, and officials plan to implement green building standards for all new buildings.

“We approached climate change first with an economic hat on,” he said.

In the second half of the event focusing on funding models, Rècolte Energy President Gopal Shanker described a creative loan program he maneuvered for the nonprofit Gasser Foundation.

“The epiphany I came to when I first started in this business is that often you have to put on a different lens to find a solution,” he said.

Real Goods Solar Vice President of Sales Kent Halliburton discussed the five basic routes for solar panel purchases: government programs, loans, leases, power purchase agreements and cash.

“There is no-one-size-fits-all funding method for solar projects. It’s a unique process for every building, and you can’t go into it thinking you will go in and get an exact price tag within two days,” he said.

PG&E Executive Manager Randy De Caminada closed the event with the energy company’s current and future funding plans. Although much of financing is prioritized for retrofitting and solar incentives, he emphasized the need to first make efforts to cut down energy use.

PG&E recently received another $1.4 billion to fund energy improvements in the next three years.

“With business or residential, now is the time to take advantage of these programs,” he said.