Local Government

The Climate Action Fellow Program Model

California local governments will play an important role in the implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). The initial scoping plan of AB32 called for local governments to set municipal and communitywide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets of 15 percent below current levels by 2020. To plan and implement these savings, local governments have developed local Climate Action Plans. These plans are comprehensive roadmaps that outline specific activities a local government will undertake to reduce GHG emissions.

Having a plan is a great first step. However, implementing the plan can be a challenge for many local governments. Smaller to medium-sized municipalities generally suffer from limited staff and capacity to implement stated goals or address new mandates. To overcome this barrier, the California Sustainability Alliance has developed a utility-funded program model to assist local governments: The Climate Action Fellows Program Model.

The objective of the program model is to provide a blueprint to use local university students (as Climate Action Fellows) to add capacity to local governments to address climate protection mandates, voluntary goals and commitments. Employing university students to serve as dedicated climate protection professionals provides these youth with unparalleled experience and place-based application of classroom theory, while providing the local municipality with cost conscious staffing to meet the goals set out in their Climate Action Plans. The model could be funded and implemented regionally by energy utilities. The model outlines the key steps to implementing the program including engaging and selecting partner local governments, recruiting and training fellows, supporting the fellows during implementation, and concluding fellow’s work by transitioning work back to local government staff.

The Alliance developed the Climate Action Fellows Model and pilot tested the approach with the City of Covina throughout the second half of 2014. Two fellows supported the City to address the most challenging aspect of its Energy Action Plan: reducing commercial sector energy consumption. The long-term objective of the City was to create a Green Business Certification program. The fellows supported the first steps of this process by outlining a business energy efficiency pilot program and recruiting pilot participants.

The Covina pilot culminated in a presentation by the fellows to the Covina City Council outlining the pilot program, the deliverables compiled by the fellows, and the status of Covina’s Green Business Pilot. The fellows’ support made inroads to addressing the City’s commercial sector climate and energy goals; city staff now are able to carry commercial sector efforts forward in 2015.

Read the full report outlining the program model and detailing the work done for the City of Covina. Expanding this program across California could provide much needed support to Local Governments and advance progress towards meeting the state’s aggressive climate goals.

New Concept for Local Governments to Partner with Utilities and Participate in the Cap-and-Trade Market

The Cap-and-Trade market has added a new dynamic to California’s greenhouse gas regulations. Utilities are faced with finding cost-effective ways to comply with their emissions reductions requirements. Energy efficiency at the local government level presents a large opportunity for saving energy that is currently not incentivized by the Cap-and-Trade system.

The coalescence of these three related factors presents an interesting nexus for solutions. The emissions reductions resulting from saved energy can be valued against the cost of compliance to utilities, which is projected to increase over time.

In response to this nexus of opportunity, the Alliance has released Exploring Utility and Local Government Partnerships to Fund Energy Efficiency Projects for Compliance with AB 32, a whitepaper that outlines a new concept that would enable local governments to participate in the Cap-and-Trade market. Under the presented framework, local governments could partner with their load-serving utilities to move cost-effective energy efficiency projects forward. The concept presented follows this basic framework:

  • Local governments receive upfront capital from their load-serving utility.
  • These local governments undertake projects with measureable energy savings.
  • These energy savings result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions for the utility, helping them meet their compliance obligation under AB 32.

This possible fit between the utilities’ needs for compliance and local government opportunities for energy efficiency needs to be explored for cost-effectiveness. Local governments require additional funding mechanisms for expansive energy efficiency projects. Utilities are some of the largest entities covered under Cap-and-Trade regulations, leading to large compliance obligations. Energy efficiency is also known to be the most cost-effective way to balance supply and demand for electricity. The key to this new concept is that the funding comes from the utility’s compliance budget. Therefore, it is in addition to existing energy efficiency incentive programming. There are challenges to the framework. Thus, the Alliance addresses each of them individually in the whitepaper. The paper also includes recommendations for implementing this new framework for harnessing potential greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Key study conclusions include:

  • There is an anticipated shortfall of compliance instruments (allowances and offset credits) occurring as early as 2016.
  • Alternate cost-effective means of compliance will be needed, and this mechanism could greatly benefit both utilities and local governments.
  • Working locally to permanently reduce emissions is a win-win opportunity for local governments and utilities.
  • There is widespread support among key stakeholders and industry subject matter experts to test this concept.

The study also summarizes key stakeholder feedback gathered as a part of concept exploration. Download the full report for more details.

California’s Revised Energy Planning Guide for Local Governments

What is it?

The California Energy Commission has recently released the 2011 Energy Aware Planning Guide, an update to a 1993 version. The guide is geared towards local governments and planning organizations including cities, counties, and regional transportation districts or any other local entity that influences energy usage in buildings, land use, transportation, water delivery and waste processing. The guide’s goal is to provide technical information to local governments seeking to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance renewable sources of energy.

Why is it Important?

Recent California legislation – the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act 375 – are starting to impact energy usage in California and local governments play a big role in influencing energy demand. Examples include local government’s influence on building code enforcement, land use planning, public transit and sometimes local governments run an electric and/or gas utility. This is in addition to the local governments own energy usage. The Guide provides processes, tools and templates to help local government’s make strategic energy plans and implement them.

How is it Helpful?

The Guide starts with a systematic process for creating an Energy Action Plan to inventory sources and uses of energy and identify opportunities for improvement. The Guide then presents many strategies to reduce energy use. Ideas include parking supply management, ridesharing, planting shade trees, implementing solar energy and water reuse and recycling.  The Guide then ends with metrics and guidelines for quantifying the impact of the recommended strategies. All of these ideas and examples can save a local government time and effort – generally in short supply during this era of budget deficits - in reducing energy usage for its own operations and its residents and businesses. 

New local government resources launched

The California Sustainability Alliance continually develops resources to aid local governments in planning and implementing sustainability initiatives.  Just last week, we released our new Local Government Resources Toolkit, posted the workbook and best practices developed as part of the California Local Energy Efficiency Program (CALeep), and added a new section to our Emerald California toolkit featuring the city of Riverside’s innovative sustainability programs.

The Local Government Resources Toolkit helps cities and counties identify and locate tools to help their communities meet sustainability goals. These tools consist of informational reports and guides, calculators, and funding opportunities available from the state and federal government, utilities, and other organizations. The tools cover topics such as community development, housing, transportation, greenhouse gases, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and water efficiency and sustainability.

The Toolkit is designed for use by local government staff who are looking for a simple portal that identifies select useful sustainability resources. The toolkit is meant to serve as a first stop for such resources when local governments are looking for assistance in achieving their sustainability goals.  Please check it out and let us know what you think!

The Alliance also released new information about the Emerald California Pilot Program. Through the Emerald California program, the California Sustainability Alliance has worked collaboratively with the city of Riverside and the California Department of Conservation to identify opportunities to “stretch” the City’s existing sustainability goals in eight high priority policy areas. Our latest addition to the Emerald California toolkit documents the City of Riverside’s efforts to reach these stretch goals and serves as an example of best practices for other communities in California.

Take a look at Riverside’s cutting edge sustainability initiatives, which include:

  • sustainable action plan, which provides a framework for implementing Riverside’s policy vision.
  • Innovative sustainability programs that target energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, and green economic development.
  • Innovative technologies such as a “grease to gas” program to generate electricity and a planned recycled water facility to reduce dependency on groundwater and imported water.
  • Unique and sophisticated marketing and communications strategy including websites dedicated to energy and water sustainability as well as a weekly “Green Power” radio show.

Our final release from these past few weeks documents the California Local Energy Efficiency Program (CALeep), which was designed to help local governments plan and implement highly effective energy efficiency initiatives within their communities.  Six pilot projects were conducted throughout the Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison service areas, assisting local governments in selecting and implementing energy efficiency programs and policies.  These pilot projects are incorporated into the CALeep Workbook, a tool that can be used by local officials and community activists to initiate, plan, organize, implement, and assess energy efficiency activities at the local and regional level, to support greenhouse gas reduction, job creation, water conservation, and green building.

We hope these tools will help those of you in local government to advance sustainability within your jurisdictions as you work to lead by example, positively influence your communities, and leverage local authority.  Use this space to tell us how your community is doing, and what types of resources and programs are working best for you.