Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

Windsor approves $100 million apartment complex featuring advanced energy efficiency

Alexandria Bordas, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After five years of planning, Windsor officials have approved construction of an apartment complex that will be the town’s most eco-friendly housing community.

Called The Mill, it will include 360 apartments built over the next two years with all electric mechanicals such as heat pumps for water and cooling and appliances powered by solar panels installed throughout the 20-acre property. Also, residents will have electric vehicle charging stations and the ability to store excess solar energy, among other amenities. There will be no gas lines anywhere in the apartment community.

Town leaders touted the $100 million housing development as being zero-net energy, meaning energy used by apartment tenants on an annual basis will be renewable and generated on-site. It is believed to be the largest apartment project with such aggressive energy efficiency set for construction in Sonoma County, said Peter Stanley, a project manager with ArchiLOGIX, a Santa Rosa design and consulting firm.

Stanley is working with Bob Bisno, a Southern California developer that recently got the go-ahead from Windsor Town Council to build the housing project on the south end of Windsor River Road.

It will be walking distance from the planned Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station.

The development represents another key piece of the town’s leaders renewable energy agenda to contend with climate change. Last month, Windsor officials said the town will use solar energy to power its water facilities, by teaming with a French company that’s installing floating solar panels this summer across a large pond on the town’s public works property.

The town council approved The Mill in hopes Windsor will get ahead of a California state law that will require all building permits issued for most new homes and multifamily residences after Jan. 1, 2020 to include rooftop solar panels. Also, state officials last year announced a goal of having all new commercial construction achieving zero net energy by 2030.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9780974-181/windsor-approves-100-million-apartment

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Do Americans need air-conditioning?

Penelope Green, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Modernity was born 116 years, 11 months, two weeks and two days ago, at a printing plant in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, when a junior engineer named Willis Carrier devised a contraption that blew air over water-filled pipes to dry out the humidity that was gumming up the pages of a humor magazine called Judge.

And in that moment (well, within a few decades), entire industries and geographies were transformed, and new technologies made possible, including, terribly, the internet: Without cooling, there would be no server farms.

Nearly 90 percent of American households now have some form of air-conditioning, more than any other country in the world except Japan, though that will change as global warming alters more temperate zones, and swelling populations and rising incomes in hot zones mean the folks there will clamor for AC, too.

On an overheated planet, air-conditioning becomes more and more desirable, solving in the short term the problem it helped create.
Sign Up for the Wait — Newsletter

Each week, you’ll get stories about money, power, sex and scrunchies.

It is another paradox that even as architects and engineers are making ever more efficient buildings to meet energy standards set by cities like New York, where a new law says that buildings over 25,000 square feet must reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, we are still freezing in our offices and fighting with our partners over whether to turn on the Friedrich.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/style/air-conditioning-obsession.html?searchResultPosition=1

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

California’s new energy law (SB 100) is a piece in a larger puzzle

Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET

Rooftop solar,storage and energy efficiency still play critical roles

California’s new landmark energy law should be a matter of pride for the whole state. It calls for electricity providers to rely on renewable sources for at least 60% of their delivered power by 2030 and on zero greenhouse gas-emitted sources for the remaining 40% by 2045. People refer to this as the 100% clean energy bill, and it represents a bold new approach for reducing California’s carbon footprint. The California Legislature deserves praise for its dedication to these important issues and for its leadership.

Let’s be clear, however, about what this change is and what it isn’t. The new law is not a 100% renewable energy mandate. The zero-emitting 40% could include large-scale hydroelectric, which is not called “renewable” for the purposes of California’s mandate, and nuclear power. It could even include natural gas or coal-fired power if people can figure out an economical way to capture and sequester all of the related greenhouse gas emissions. Although the new law leaves it to regulators to define what “clean” means, arguably some of the eligible power sources are not particularly clean, as I will explain below. Nonetheless, at this point only Hawaii can boast of a similar broad effort to eliminate carbon-based powerplant fuels.

So, we’re done! Since all power is going to be clean, we are all off the hook. It doesn’t matter how much we use. It doesn’t matter if we generate power on our rooftops, or if we provide community solar parks. We can plug in our cars, set up new districts with neon lights that rival Las Vegas, and get a second or third refrigerator to store beer in the garage — our friendly retail electricity provider will take care of everything.

Well, not so fast. It is still important for us all to do what we can to reduce demand for energy, across-the-board, and shift our usage to periods of lower demand. It is still valuable to distribute power generation throughout a utility service area (closer to customers), add solar photovoltaics to suitable rooftops, and rely on storage in batteries and other devices to make renewable energy available at night and when the wind doesn’t blow.

Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/09/10/californias-new-energy-law-sb-100-is-a-piece-in-a-larger-puzzle/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , , Leave a comment on Op-Ed: New rules cast a shadow on a green energy program

Op-Ed: New rules cast a shadow on a green energy program

Rocco Fabiano, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Nearly a decade ago, Sonoma County became the first county in the nation to offer an innovative financing option to encourage homeowners to invest in projects that reduced energy consumption and provided for a cleaner environment. Known as PACE, for property-assessed clean energy, the program made it easier to pay for renewable and energy-efficient upgrades by allowing homeowners to finance these projects through their property taxes. This program was designed to provide a vehicle for promoting important public policy initiatives, without using tax dollars or tax credits.

The Sonoma County program, known as SCEIP, was launched after California passed the most comprehensive legislation in the country to address climate change, with the goal of improving the environment while maintaining a robust economy. The fact that these pioneering programs were birthed in California was no accident.

The Golden State has long been a leader in addressing climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Residential PACE programs have now been approved in more than 50 California counties and have spread to Florida and Missouri. In California, the program has been expanded to support other public policy initiatives, including water conversation and seismic retrofits.

But now this program is in jeopardy of collapsing under the weight of new regulations. Losing PACE would have the unfortunate effect of eliminating strong economic and environmental benefits for our region.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8528392-181/close-to-home-new-rules

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans 

NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Homeowners have new choices to fund energy, water improvements

Homeowners have new choices to fund energy, water improvements

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa turns darkened streetlights back on with new high-efficiency LED bulbs

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

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , Leave a comment on Governor Brown establishes most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target in North America 

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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , Leave a comment on Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014

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.