Energizing America … Cities leading the way

There are many rows to hoe to foster an Energy Smart culture, one that will enable us to create a Prosperous, Climate Friendly Society.  Being Energy Smart begins at Home, but individuals will not, cannot create this path toward a sensible future alone, we work, live, and prosper in communities. And, well, isn’t that what civilization is about?

Now, some communities in the nation are moving forward, are taking steps to create a sustainable energy future.  

This diary will focus on recent announcements by three cities:  Berkeley and Santa Barbara, California; and Richmond, Virginia.

Making Solar an Easy Choice … Berkeley’s Path

Energizing America into an Energy Smart future will require engagement from us all, at all levels, individuals, businesses, communities, government (at all levels).  One of EA2020’s Core Principles is to Make the Right Choice, The Easy Choice (and the preferred choice) when it comes to energy issues.  Berkeley, California, has decided on a major initiative to make one significant ‘right choice the easy choice’ for its citizens.

A critical challenge for deploying energy efficiency and renewable energy options are the upfront costs. It might be less expensive over 10 or 20 years, but how many people have the pocket money to reinsulate their homes or, more prominently, tile their roof with solar panels. Berkeley plans to help change this equation.

On November 6th, Berkeley’s City Council will vote on a plan for the city to finance solar panels for its residents to then have the homeowners pay for their panels through a 20-year additional assessment on their homes that is guaranteed not to exceed what their electricity would cost from the utility.

There are a number of genius elements to this path. One is that the city government will be able to achieve lower cost financing that, by definition, will lower the long-term cost of each installation. And, the City’s commitment will foster educated inspectors (a real issue), a concentration of installers, knowledge in the community, etc, capacity for executing installations. The increasing number of installations (along with lower hassles for installers, like inspectors who know what they’re doing) will also drive down costs as quantity of installations mount.

This is a path that could open up solar pv (and, we could hope, hot water) installations to (tens of) millions of Americans as Berkeley might just be a starting point.

“If this works, we’d want to look at this for other cities statewide,” said Ken Alex, California deputy attorney general. “We think it’s a very creative way to eliminate the barriers to getting solar panels, and it’s fantastic that Berkeley’s going ahead with this.”

And, this model does not have to stop with solar electricity. Why not geothermal installations? Insulation backfits? Green Roofing?  Berkeley might be creating a roadmap for Energy Smart financing for an Energy Smart America.

Committing to Better Buildings: Santa Barbara and Richmond

There are many organizations working hard to foster a better tomorrow, trying to figure out ways to navigate the combined threats of Peak Oil and Global Warming to create a sustainable energy future. So many that it is more than a full time job to keep track of all the activity out there. Amid all the plethora of organizations,  Architecture 2030 is something that merits attention if you have any concerns about building infrastructure and its impacts related to energy/global warming. There are many challenges, targets, paths, but a core element is that all new buildings in the United States will be “Carbon-neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate)”.

The US Conference of Mayors and the National Association of County Officials have adopted resolutions supported Architecture 2030’s objectives. There are a number of organizations and cities who have signed up with Architecture2030.  Well, the list is getting longer.

Richmond, Virginia, has

adopted the Architecture 2030 standards for city-owned buildings.

“We’re not content with where we are regarding the strong need to reduce greenhouse emissions in order to protect our environment,” said Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder. “With the 2030 Challenge report to guide us, we will be setting the example ourselves and not waiting to follow others. We recognize the need to take proactive steps to preserve our environment for future generations.”

   Richmond is promoting the objectives to other cities and counties.

Santa Barbara is going a step farther.  Last week, according to reporting in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound, the Santa Barbara‘s City Council unanimously adopted Architecture2030 Energy Ordinance, making it the first city-wide adoption in the United States.  They did this a year after presentations by Ed Mazria, of Architecture 2030, who convinced the city to act, to act seriously.

The ordinance will enact building regulations exceeding state standards for energy use by 20 percent for low-rise residential buildings, 15 percent for high-rise residential buildings and 10 percent for nonresidential buildings, …

The power of regulation, of building code.  Building code is ‘minimum’, not optimal or recommended. This code will help drive buildings toward more reasonable (lower) energy use.

Calling it one of the most important acts the Council has taken in recent years, Councilmember Das Williams said it is about time “we grow up as a society” and stop being a “race of spoiled children, squandering away our natural resources.”

Stop being “spoiled children” …

“It’s not every day contractors and architects come to us and say, can you make the rules a bit more stringent, please?” Councilmember HeleneSchneider said.

They know it is the right thing to do. Now they will have to spend less time convincing clients to take Energy Smart steps and can focus on ways to meet these targets.

Now, Santa Barbara’s regulation needs state approval. And, when California’s codes become tougher, these rules will be revisited — hopefully to keep pushing the envelope toward greater energy efficiency.

Energizing America … Cities Leading the Way

We all can be leaders in fostering an Energy Smart culture. We can lead in our personal lives, in our communities, in our businesses, otherwise.  Discussed here are three American cities that are taking actions to become more Energy Smart.  Actions that could have real direct impact but could, potentially, have far greater implications as an example and guiding light for other cities and communities around the nation.

We can all
help make
Energy Smart.
Ask yourself:  

Are you doing
your part to



* FYI, Berkeley’s Energy & Sustainable Development page, where you can learn about things like Berkeley’s installation of a (very) small municipal wind turbine earlier this year and Ballot Measure G (pdf), which is Berkeley’s commitment to an 80 percent GHG reduction by 2050.


* Re Architecture2030, if you can take the four hours, the  Architecture2010 webcast conference is highly (STRONGLY) recommended. And, well, you can watch it in portions.


2 responses to “Energizing America … Cities leading the way

  1. Pingback: Saltbundle.Com » Energizing America … Cities leading the way

  2. Pingback: Small / Scalable / Renewable Power: The Berkeley Solution « Energy Smart

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