Tag Archives: energy efficiency

Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans 


The federal government has announced new guidelines that will make it easier for the sale and financing of homes with existing property-assessed clean energy (PACE) loans, through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Veterans’ Administration (VA).

Seniority has been a sticking point for PACE loans since California enacted Assembly Bill 811 of 2008, allowing such financing, and the pioneering Sonoma County Energy Independence Program launched in March 2009.

“This guidance provides resolution on how PACE financings will be handled in the event of a property’s sale, refinance or foreclosure and upholds PACE’s senior lien position,” said Stacey Lawson, CEO and president of Ygrene Energy Fund, a Santa Rosa-based PACE financing provider. “This is confirmation for the homeowners and local governments that have realized enormous, positive benefits of PACE financing for energy and water-related improvements.”

PACE programs enable homeowners to finance up to 20 years water and energy-efficiency projects, paying for the improvements along with their property taxes.

The new guidelines say that a senior PACE lien can be secured to a property with an FHA-insured mortgage in a manner consistent with traditional special property-tax assessments. Additionally, the announcement reinforces lien transferability by stating that in the event of a sale — including a foreclosure sale — that the outstanding PACE obligation will remain with the property and the new homeowner will be responsible for the balance.

The Obama administration, in collaboration with state agencies, also announced a new goal to bring 1 gigawatt of solar — enough to power roughly 700,000 homes — to low- and moderate- income families by 2020. The Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative is a joint partnership between the department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Veteran’s Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Source: Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

California wants renewable energy for half its power by 2030 

Michael R. Blood & Judy Lin, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gov. Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals, committing the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient in just 15 years.

Brown tried for an even stronger measure that also would have enforced a 50 percent drop in petroleum use by 2030, but was defeated by oil interests. He called that a short-term setback, and insisted that the world needs to wean itself off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

“What has been the source of our prosperity now becomes the source of our ultimate destruction, if we don’t get off it. And that is so difficult,” Brown said at a signing ceremony Wednesday at the hilltop Griffith Observatory, overlooking the haze of downtown Los Angeles.

California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and set a mandate in 2006 to derive a third of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2020. State regulators say they already hit 25 percent last year, as huge solar farms sprouted in the desert and towering windmills went up along mountain passes.

“It’s monumental,” said Alex Jackson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For an economy the size of California to commit to getting half of its power needs from renewable energy resources, I think, is a game-changer.”

Read more at: California wants renewable energy for half its power by 2030 | The State

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Homeowners have new choices to fund energy, water improvements


Choices, choices. Sonoma County homeowners seeking to add a solar energy system, replace that old furnace or install artificial turf soon will have an array of options to fund the improvements.The county is witnessing a proliferation of government-sponsored programs that offer to finance various energy- and water-efficiency projects. But figuring out which option is best can be difficult.

Many homeowners already know about the 6-year-old Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, or SCEIP, which is available in each of the county’s nine cities and the unincorporated area. For little money down, the county-sponsored effort provides financing for various projects, with costs added to the homeowners’ property tax bills. Approved contractors complete the work, and owners pay back the borrowed funds over periods of 10 or 20 years with an annual interest rate of 7 percent.

Now three more separate programs are joining SCEIP to compete for residential projects, and a fourth offers financing solely for commercial work. Fees vary and interest rates range from just under 7 percent for a five-year loan to more than 8 percent for a 20-year loan.

However, none of the new residential programs currently are available throughout the county, as SCEIP is. For example, two new programs are taking applications today in Sebastopol and one is available in Windsor and Petaluma. None are yet available in Santa Rosa, though that may change this summer. Program officials said they hope to eventually operate countywide, but that depends on getting approval from each city council.

Sound complicated? Homeowners thinking about improvement projects first may benefit by contacting the Sonoma County Energy Independence Office, the government office that is gearing up to provide consumer information on the emerging marketplace.

“We’ll steer them to whatever resources we know of,” said Jane Elias, a community program coordinator for the county’s energy efficiency efforts.

Read more at: Homeowners face dizzying new choices to fund energy, | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, Water

Santa Rosa turns darkened streetlights back on with new high-efficiency LED bulbs


In the dark days of Santa Rosa’s budget crisis, one of the most visible signs of the city’s financial challenges was its decision to turn off thousands of the city’s streetlights.

Between 2009 and 2013, the city either switched off or limited the run time of approximately 4,700 streetlights throughout Santa Rosa, nearly a third of the 15,500 in the city.

It was a controversial program, one that, despite saving the city more than $300,000 per year, was scaled back from its original goal of darkening 10,000 lights following pressure from residents and council members concerned about safety issues.

Now that the city’s budget picture has brightened significantly, it has committed to turn back on all 3,400 lights that were switched off and all 1,300 lights that were placed on timers, which automatically turned the lights off between midnight and 5:30 a.m.

The goal is to have all those lights back on by June 2016, an aggressive target that the City Council funded with an additional $600,000 from a mid-year budget surplus.

Read more via: Santa Rosa turns darkened streetlights back on | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Governor Brown establishes most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target in North America 

Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. – Newsroom

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an executive order to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half.

“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” said Governor Brown. This executive action sets the stage for the important work being done on climate change by the Legislature.

The Governor’s executive order aligns California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets with those of leading international governments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. The 28-nation European Union, for instance, set the same target for 2030 just last October. California is on track to meet or exceed the current target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as established in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). California’s new emission reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 will make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050. This is in line with the scientifically established levels needed in the U.S. to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius – the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be major climate disruptions such as super droughts and rising sea levels.

Read more via: Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. – Newsroom

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014

International Energy Agency

Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn.

“This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, recently named to take over from Maria van der Hoeven as the next IEA Executive Director.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.3 billion tonnes in 2014, unchanged from the preceding year. The preliminary IEA data suggest that efforts to mitigate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought.

The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to changing patterns of energy consumption in China and OECD countries. In China, 2014 saw greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar and wind, and less burning of coal. In OECD economies, recent efforts to promote more sustainable growth – including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy – are producing the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” added Birol. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

Read more via March:- Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014.

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Fixing climate change may add no costs, report says


In decades of public debate about global warming, one assumption has been accepted by virtually all factions: that tackling it would necessarily be costly. But a new report casts doubt on that idea, declaring that the necessary fixes could wind up being effectively free.

A global commission will announce its finding on Tuesday that an ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost $4 trillion or so over the next 15 years, an increase of roughly 5 percent over the amount that would likely be spent anyway on new power plants, transit systems and other infrastructure.

When the secondary benefits of greener policies — like lower fuel costs, fewer premature deaths from air pollution and reduced medical bills — are taken into account, the changes might wind up saving money, according to the findings of the group, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

“We are proposing a way to have the same or even more economic growth, and at the same time have environmental responsibility,” said the chairman of the commission, Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico and an economist. “We need to fix this problem of climate change, because it’s affecting all of us.”

The commission found that some $90 trillion is likely to be spent over the coming 15 years on new infrastructure around the world. The big challenge for governments is to adopt rules and send stronger market signals that redirect much of that investment toward low-emission options, the report found.

Read more via Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says – NYTimes.com.

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

California greenhouse gas emissions inch up 2 percent

Rory Carroll and Leslie Adler, REUTERS

California’s greenhouse gas emissions rose about 2 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year as more natural gas was burned to compensate for the closure of a nuclear plant and a drop in hydro-electricity due to a drought, the state’s air regulator said on Wednesday.

Higher utility sector emissions were offset somewhat by a modest decline in output from the transportation sector, which remains the state’s largest single source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions from manufacturers stayed relatively flat despite a 13 percent increase from the cement sector as the state’s eight plants ramped up production.

State air officials said that despite the small overall increase, long-term trends show California is cutting emissions even as the economy recovers from a lengthy recession.

Transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 12 percent over the past seven years due in part to a larger number of fuel-efficient vehicles on California roads, regulators said. The Toyota Prius, a hybrid that gets about 50 miles to the gallon, was the best-selling car in California in 2012.

Californian’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 12 percent over the past decade, regulators said.

via California greenhouse gas emissions inch up 2 percent | Reuters.

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

EPA’s annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory shows a 3.4% decrease in emissions

Julia P. Valentine, U.S. EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 19th annual report of overall U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today, showing a 3.4 percent decrease in 2012 from 2011. The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, which is submitted annually to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, presents a national-level overview of annual greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

The major contributors to the decrease in emissions from 2011-2012 were the decrease in energy consumption across all sectors in the U.S. economy, and the decrease in carbon intensity for electricity generation due to fuel switching from coal to natural gas. Other factors included a decrease in transportation sector emissions attributed to an increase in fuel efficiency across different transportation modes and limited new demand for passenger transportation.

Greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change, leading to increased heat-related illnesses and deaths; worsening the air pollution that can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory problems; and expanding the ranges of disease-spreading insects. Climate change is also affecting the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather events.

via 04/15/2014: EPA Publishes 19th Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says

Justin Gillis, NYTIMES.COM

Delivering the latest stark news about climate change on Sunday, a United Nations panel warned that governments are not doing enough to avert profound risks in coming decades. But the experts found a silver lining: Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.

In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.

“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

via Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says – NYTimes.com.

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living