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Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Strategies

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In 2006 the Legislature passed and Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which set the 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal into law.  The goal is to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. It directed the California Air Resources Board (ARB or Board) to begin developing discrete early actions to reduce greenhouse gases while also preparing a scoping plan to identify how best to reach the 2020 limit.  The reduction measures to meet the 2020 target are to be adopted by the start of 2011.

Local governments play an essential role in achieving GHG reduction targets.  They have broad influence and, in some cases, exclusive authority over activities that contribute to significant direct and indirect GHG emissions through their planning and permitting processes, local ordinances, outreach and education efforts, and municipal operations. Many of the measures in the Scoping Plan to reduce GHG emissions rely on local government actions.

The following is a sample set of strategies from the ARB Local Government Toolkit for reducing GHG emissions (http://www.coolcalifornia.org/local-government): 

Plan a Comprehensive Energy Management Program

Appoint an Energy Manager

By appointing an energy manager, local governments identify a lead staff person responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive energy management program. An energy manager is in charge of planning, procurement and utilization of energy resources at a property, facility, or portfolio of properties. Energy managers often recommend policy for energy efficiency and conservation, develop long-range plans, and provide reports on the effectiveness of the energy program.

Adopt an Energy Policy

By adopting energy policy, cities and counties can identify clear goals and objectives to guide energy management planning and action. Energy goals describe broad intentions such as improving energy efficiency of municipal facilities. Objectives outline quantitative goals and tasks to verify and measure program success. Consider adopting a policy that goes beyond energy efficiency to include a more comprehensive green building approach. Some cities and counties have adopted a policy to require all new construction of municipal buildings to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Similarly, local governments adopt policies to mandate GreenPoint Rated for new construction of residential projects. Please see Build Green for additional recommendations on how to save money.

Convene an Energy Team

A team of internal city/county staff and external stakeholders can be useful in developing an energy action plan. Energy managers can recruit key staff with expertise in priority policy areas to join the energy team. External stakeholders can provide additional technical guidance when developing an energy action plan. Be sure to include your electricity and natural gas utility as part of your energy team. Additional team members should include water utilities and waste haulers for local governments that would like to take a sustainability approach.

Develop an Energy Action Plan

Energy efficiency is a key component of a Climate Action Plan. Cities and counties should develop an Energy Action Plan by identifying opportunities for reductions in energy consumption and methods to increase conservation and efficiency. An action plan is usually completed after energy audits are conducted for existing municipal facilities. Information collected during energy audits can help to prioritize a plan for action to reduce energy usage. The Energy Action Plan outlines a roadmap for continuous improvement over time and should be included as the Energy component of the local governments Climate Action Plan.

Develop a Measurement and Verification Plan

measurement and verification (M&V) plan establishes the metrics that will be used to measure baseline energy performance and verify energy savings in the future. Some cities/counties may decide to do all of the energy management work in-house and would not need to develop a comprehensive M&V plan. However, energy managers may still want to measure and verify energy savings, which is important for energy accounting. A M&V plan can help local governments to see if their predicted energy savings were achieved.

Retrofit Existing Buildings and Local Streets & Roads

Conduct Building Commissioning for Municipally Owned Facilities

Commissioning is a systematic process to help ensure building systems are designed, installed, tested, perform, and capable of being operated and maintained according to owner's operational needs. The commissioning process documents the quality of building system performance and facilitates improved building operation without requiring any major renovations. According to a 2004 study of 224 buildings in 21 states, an average of 11 deficiencies was found in each existing building and 28 deficiencies per new building. The median cost of commissioning existing buildings was found to total $0.27/ft2 with whole building energy savings of 15 percent and a payback time of 0.7 years. New construction commissioning costs were about 0.6% of total construction costs or $1/ft2 with a median payback of 4.8 years. Evan Mills with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concludes that “commissioning is one of the most cost-effective means of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings.” The California Commissioning Collaborative offers a variety of commissioning tools and information to help get you started.

Use EnergyIQ to Benchmark Municipal Facilities

EnergyIQ offers the next generation of energy benchmarking. It is the first action-oriented tool for non-residential buildings. EnergyIQ benchmarks energy usage, costs, and features for 62 building types and provides a greenhouse gas emissions estimation for energy consumed. This tool generates a list of opportunities and recommended actions for building retrofits. EnergyIQ is intended for preliminary opportunity assessment and lays the groundwork for investment-grade energy audits and engineering calculations to determine energy efficiency upgrades.

Conduct Energy Audits of Existing Municipal Facilities

An energy audit identifies how energy is used in a facility, and then recommends ways to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. There are several types of energy audits, which can identify ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. California Energy Commission’s Energy Partnership Program provides technical assistance to cities and counties to conduct energy audits and identify cost-effective energy saving opportunities for local government facilities. Cities and counties can also partner with private utilities who may offer free on-site energy audits of municipal buildings. These partnership programs typically help local governments retrofit their own facilities and strive to accomplish the goals in the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan.

Join the Energy Star Challenge

As part of the Energy Star Challenge, local governments commit to completing energy efficiency retrofits of existing government-owned buildings to improve energy efficiency of existing buildings by at least 10 percent.

Complete Energy Retrofits with a Fast Payback Period

  • Lighting retrofits: Replace standard incandescent light bulbs with low-watt compact fluorescent bulbs. All T12 fluorescent lighting can be replaced with Super T8s.
  • Energy management systems: Install occupant sensors in vast use areas, which will automatically turn off lights when areas are not in use. For larger buildings, use complete energy management systems that include thermostat control and timing. In smaller buildings, install programmable thermostats.
  • As municipal appliances wear out, replace them with Energy Star equipment.
  • Install Controllers for Beverage Vending Machines: Many beverage vending machines keep beverages cold by a compressor running 24 hours a day. The compressor run time could be reduced by installing a vending machine controller. The controller has a sensor detecting the presence of a moving object. When there is no one around, the controller will lock out the compressor for a period of time and run the compressor again just to keep the beverage cool. The energy used by the compressor is assumed to be reduced by 35 percent annually.

Participate in a Demand Response Program

Some utilities in California offer Demand Response programs where local governments can agree to power down energy usage during peak demand on alert days. Cities and counties that participate in Demand Response programs may have lower energy rates year round.

Improve Energy Efficiency in Street Lights and Traffic Signals

One way to conserve energy is to decrease the average daily time street lights are on. Additionally, cities and counties can install energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) luminaires for traffic signals and street lights. Since street lighting may represent one of largest energy costs for local governments, installing LED luminaires provides an opportunity to achieve significant energy savings. According to a recent demonstration project in San Francisco, installing white LED luminaires was considered technically and economically feasible. Annual energy cost savings ranged from 50 percent to 70 percent compared to standard high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps. LED luminaires provided a shorter payback period in new construction (3.7 to 15.3 years) compared to retrofits (7.4 to 20.4 years). Other benefits of LED technology include reduced maintenance costs, longer life resulting in less frequent replacement, improved lighting quality, and avoided hazardous materials such as mercury, which is found in conventional HPS lamps.

Consider Energy Efficiency for New Construction

Integrate Passive Solar Design into New Construction Projects

Passive solar design eliminates the need for mechanical heating and cooling, which can save energy and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Sourcebook for Green and Sustainable Building, "passive solar design refers to the use of the sun's energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces. In this approach, the building itself or some element of it takes advantage of natural energy characteristics in materials and air created by exposure to the sun. Passive systems are simple, have few moving parts, and require minimal maintenance and require no mechanical systems." See the green building action area for more information.

Design New Facilities to Exceed Title 24 Energy Code

By constructing new facilities to exceed Title 24 Energy Code by 15 percent (Tier 1), 30 percent (Tier 2), or more they will use less energy and save money over time. Energy managers can request design teams to develop a building energy simulation model, which demonstrates how the new facility meets either of these goals to exceed Title 24 energy code by 15 percent or 30 percent. Since most commercial buildings use the performance approach for Title 24 compliance, they can use the California Energy Comission-approved Title 24 software to model energy consumption and demonstrate Tier 1 and/or Tier 2 compliance. These performance based thresholds are consistent with the Go Solar Initiative and will also put local governments on the path towards Zero Net Energy.

Civic Engagement

Initiate an Education Program with Government Employees

Energy efficient equipment is ineffective unless individual behavior is aligned with your city/county energy goals. Local government employees should be educated on the city’s/county’s GHG reduction goals, its Climate Action Plan, and Energy Management Plan. Local government employees can use strategies implemented in municipal facilities to teach residents and business owners about the benefits and cost savings of energy efficiency and conservation. Cities and counties can also partner with local utilities to develop an Energy Watch program to help local organizations implement energy efficiency projects at their facilities.

Policy for Community Action

Adopt a Local Ordinance to Exceed Title 24 Energy Code

Local governments can pass an ordinance to adopt more stringent building standards than the Title 24 Energy Code. Visit the CEC website for a sample ordinance.

Pass an Ordinance for Energy Audits and Retrofits

Pass an ordinance to require residential and commercial buildings to undergo audits and meet minimum energy and water efficiency performance standards.

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