Eight Chapters, Thousands of Members, One Voice

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USGBC+ Looks at California in Latest Issue

Yeah, that’outfront-outwest-headers me doing the old folded arm thing in front of what you have to admit is a pretty cool sign. USGBC+, the new USGBC magazine (http://plus.usgbc.org/), focuses on our changing climate this issue. Unfortunately, if things continue the way they are currently going, Redwood City may have to reconsider their famous motto, derived from the observations of both the American and German governemtns in an era when such determinations were based on whoknowswhat.

While all the attention of the article is quite flattering personally, and Vice Chair Wes Sullens does refer to this org as “my baby,” I know it really takes a virtual village. The true story is much more about all the good, public-spirited USGBC people across California that have made this organization into a recognized source for forward-thiking policy squarely aimed at an audacious undertaking: the transformation of our built environment for the benefit of all through a carbon-free California economy much more prosperous, healthy, and equitable. We face a few tons worth of challenges moving towards this goal, but what choice do we really have? We know the most dangerous thing we can do when our world is so dramatically changing is to stand still; we need to build consensus, foster innovation, make markets, and then achieve and surpass our climate goals.

All of us involved in the coalition of eight chapters that is USGBC California need each other to get thigs done. Candice Wong, chair of the California Central Coast Chapter (they call it C4), says that the creation of our state org has helped connect her chapter to other chapters and speak with one stronger, collective voice in Sacramento. Our issue portfolio spans quite a few areas like water and energy efficiency, building codes, green schools, finance and resilency/adaptation. Alongside the USGBC+ issue was the recent release of Safeguarding Califonia, the state’s far-ranging guide on climate risk management headed by Natural Resource’s Ann Chan (http://resources.ca.gov/climate/safeguarding/).

But the single bggest area, the one that cuts across everything, has been the evolving understanding around health impacts, whether inside buildings or across climate zones. Northern California Chapter Executive Director Dan Geiger puts it plainly: “If you say, ‘Green schools have cleaner air, more daylight, less absenteeism,’ people get it right away.” Dominique Smith, executive director of USGBC’s Los Angeles Chapter concurs, noting a “huge movement” toward including human health issues as part of environmental advocacy. USGBC California has been quite active on making our furniture and insualtion safer. Technical Bulliten 117 has been updated fro 1975 and Research head Paul Werrmer has been leading the regualtory grind of implementation for last year’s landmark Assembly Bill 127.

So we hope that this USGBC+ issue is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship chronicaling the exploits of our continued advocacy. It is certainly something worthy of your topline bookmark.

PS: USGBC+ also has an article on the San Diego’s Chapter Green Assistance Program (GAP) and the work done in Balboa Park with the Worldbeat Center. Hats of to Renée Daigneault and Ravi Bajaj and Doug Kot.

USGBC Sungevity PS_Tag

Project Sunshine: Sungevity Passes $1.5M Raise

USGBC Sungevity PS_TagUSGBC California and the eight California Chapters are relatively new to the Sungevity partnership, but we are starting to see results. Here’s a report of their milestone achievement with us and other NGOs.

From The Huffington Post  | By

Sungevity, Inc., a company created to allow homeowners to design their own solar power systems through an online process, announced Wednesday that they had reached a key milestone with their nonprofit partners.

The company’s partnership program, Sungevity.org, works with nonprofit organizations to raise money for their causes while encouraging their members to choose Sungevity for their solar installations. Sungevity has now donated more than $1.5 million to nonprofits ranging from the Sierra Club and Save the Frogs to schools and science centers. To celebrate reaching this milestone, the company will announce Wednesday that it is making a $50,000 donation to their local food bank in California, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and adding them as a partner nonprofit. The ACCFB serves a sixth of Alameda County residents and distributes 450,000 meals worth of food every week.

For each customer that installs solar with Sungevity, the company will donate to their nonprofit of choice. “Every home that we get to go solar, Sungevity gives us $750 back,” said Sierra Club Chief of Staff Jesse Simons said in a Sungevity.org promotional video. “This has been a great revenue-generating tool for the Sierra Club.”

Sungevity.org works with 115 participating nonprofits, and estimates that the program has helped offset 322,436 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — equivalent to planting more than 7.5 million trees. The company touts the program as more than just a fundraising tool for nonprofits, but a way for them to help their members help the environment.

“Going solar through the program gives non-profit partners a personal action to promote to their supporters, empowering them to take positive action that helps stymie climate change while simultaneously helping to raise funds for their specific cause,” Renu Mathias, Sungevity’s director of affinity marketing, told the Huffington Post.

The solar industry in the United States is growing as costs continue to fall, and 2013 was a record year for new photovoltaic installations. SungeSolar Fundraisingvity offers systems that homeowners can purchase outright and a residential solar lease program, an arrangement in which a third party owns the panels and the homeowner pays a lease or simply buys the energy from the panel owners. Solar leasing is a growing trend as a way to finance solar without bearing all the upfront costs of buying and maintaining equipment. Sungevity believes that solar will continue to grow through their “solar social” strategy. “Ultimately, solar customers will help to rapidly scale solar’s uptake,” Mathias told HuffPost.

Sungevity is one of many small businesses working social impact into their mission. Many states are now allowing companies to incorporate as a “benefit corporation,” or B Corps, which formalizes their commitment to social impact in addition to profit. B Lab, a nonprofit, has certified more than 900 companies, including Sungevity. These companies, according to the B Corps website, are dedicated to using “the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.”

“The $1.5 million we have generated for nonprofit organizations through this initiative underscores how solar can be a force for social change beyond the immediate environmental benefits of lowering the collective carbon footprint,” said Sungevity founder and CEO Andrew Birch in a press release.

USGBC PolicyPalooza Logo 2014

PolicyPalooza 2014

USGBC PolicyPalooza Logo 2014 That special time is coming near: PolicyPalooza! Our annual Advocacy Day will be concurrent with the Green California Summit and promises to be a great big three-ring circus of fun, featuring our Day at the Capital, the Advocates Luncheon and the Green Hard Hat Awards Reception as well as special Green California Summit keynotes from Building Health Initiative leader Anne Simpson of CalPERS and Wade Crowfoot of the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research. In addition to the USGBC California booth (#608) on the exhibit floor, there will be USGBC “Greenbuild-style” presentations on Prop 39 programs, school water management, “Grey, Purple, Green” water policy, “Last Mile” code discussions and reports from USGBC Northern California Chapter’s Building Health Initiative.

USGBC Advocates from around the state will gather at the Capital for over 70 meetings and discuss “mainstreaming” topics like driving sustainable market transformation, specifying healthier building materials,  fostering innovative building permit delivery and enforcement metrics, codifying foundational greywater and recycled water plumbing and leveraging building energy data beyond the benchmark.

The Class of 2014 Green Hard Hat Awardees features water policy leader Assemblymember Mike Gatto (legislative sponsor of the dual-use plumbing “Purple Pipe” bill, AB 2282), energy efficiency policy leader Assemblymember Das Williams (sponsor of  the “Last Mile” energy code enforcement legislation, AB 1918) and Dan Burgoyne of the Department of General Services, point person for implementing the Governor’s Executive Order B-18-12 on State BuildingsResiliency_Doug and Ann_sm and statewide water management and other worthy initiatives. These notables follow in the footsteps of past champions like Governor Brown Senators Kevin de Leon,  Fran Pavley and Darrell Steinberg, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

A great, exhausting time will be sure to be had by all. We’ll be posting scenes of Green Hard Hat wearing in the near future.

 

 

 

 

President Obama Announces New Energy Efficiency Manufacturing Hub in North Carolina Visit

By Luis Martinez

Luis Martinez, Senior Attorney, Energy and Transportation Program, Asheville, North Carolina

President Obama dropped into our state (North Carolina) on a clean-energy visit Wednesday to tour a private company’s research into energy efficiency and to unveil a new private-public energy consortium at North Carolina State University.

The president’s visit also serves as a nod toward the Tar Heel State’s nation-leading efforts to create clean-energy jobs and the strong pushback in the past year against efforts to ease regulation that promotes clean energy.

In Raleigh, Obama spent an hour in the offices of the power manufacturing company Vacon, a Finnish company that opened a research-and-development facility in 2012 in the Research Triangle Park. Vacon manufactures AC drives, which control the speed of electric motors to maximize energy efficiency.

Accompanied by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Vacon Vice President Dan Isaksson, the president stopped at a display of computer screens and devices and got an overview of the technology from Vacon engineer Rod Washington. Obama said Vacon’s work was leading to a “huge increase of efficiencies of power” that saves money. At a second stop in the plant, Obama praised the company’s “good work” and efforts to link up with local universities.

An hour later, Obama was back in the heart of Raleigh at North Carolina State, where he announced that the university’s Centennial Campus will be home to a consortium of companies and universities that aims to develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices.

Participating in the consortium are seven universities and 18 companies, including companies such as Cree and ABB that have a large presence in the Raleigh-Durham area. The consortium, called the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute, will over the next five years receive $70 million from the U.S. Energy Department and $10 million from the state. The consortium partners will march the federal money with an additional $70 million.

The North Carolina consortium is the first of three manufacturing centers that Obama proposed in his State of the Union address last year. The N.C. bid was selected in a competition launched last May. The two other institutes are still in the selection process, and the White House said Wednesday they should be announced soon.

North Carolina’s advances in clean-energy technologies are the envy of many states. Research from RTI International has found that clean-energy businesses have created more than 21,000 jobs and brought in $1.7 billion into North Carolina’s economy.

And our business affiliate Environmental Entrepreneurs has found that North Carolina is No. 5 for solar development and No. 2 in clean energy and clean transportation jobs announcements.

Even amid such demonstrated results, resistance to clean-energy policy remains. Opponents took a hard run at repealing North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. This rule requires investor-owned utilities to produce 12.5 percent of their electricity by 2021 using renewable resources and energy efficiency.

Ultimately, the repeal effort failed – largely because of the tide of clean-energy jobs that have come into North Carolina precisely because of the standard. Republican Rep. Tim Moore of Cleveland County told The News & Observer of Raleigh that his vote “was based off local issues back home. I would have had a difficult time talking to a CEO who just brought 300 jobs to Cleveland County (and telling him) that I’m going to vote to eliminate this program that justified their investment.”

Additional movement towards a clean energy economy happened this November when the state’s utilities commission approved a “shared savings” program that will compensate Duke Energy for its investments in energy efficiency programs if they save money for customers. With “shared savings,” Duke Energy customers will keep close to 90 percent of efficiency savings, and Duke earns the rest.

Wednesday’s presidential visit and announcement only pushes North Carolina further ahead in clean energy. But it doesn’t take a visit by a chief executive to get Tar Heels thinking about energy efficiency – they already know it’s the future.

Source: NRDC

California, step aside: New York State's solar industry is on the rise

By Pierre Bull

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Pierre Bull, Policy Analyst, Air & Energy, New York City

There’s been a lot of excitement about the bright future of New York’s NY-Sun solar program after a bunch of major developments last week, including the governor’s exciting State of the State speech; an important petition that the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) filed with the state Public Service Commission; and, the release of the draft New York State Energy Plan. So I thought I’d do a follow on to my post last week, providing more detail on the history of the NY-Sun program, the process for the expansion of the program moving forward, what we expect to happen when, and, what solar supporters can do to cheer the program on.

As I described last year, NY-Sun is on the rise. With the momentum building from Governor Cuomo’s State of the State announcement last week, 2014 promises to be a banner year for solar in New York.

In last year’s State of the State speech, Governor Cuomo announced his intent to expand the NY-Sun program over ten years, with a billion dollar investment. And in the year that followed, he took important steps toward realizing this commitment. Most recently, on January 6, just before the governor’s State of the State speech, NYSERDA filed a petition with the Public Service Commission seeking the green light to do just that: increase the NY-Sun budget to nearly $1 billion in support of the deployment of 3,000 megawatts of solar power by 2023. These dollar budgets and megawatt targets are essential to providing the certainty, longevity, and scale necessary to drive investment. But equally vital are the much-needed program design changes that NYSERDA has proposed. Today, the public comment period on NYSERDA’s plan to extend and expand the NY-Sun program will begin, and we hope that solar stakeholders and other members of the public will weigh in to support this huge advance for New York solar. Comments are due by March 3rd and can be emailed to the Public Service Commission at secretary@dps.ny.gov. Specific details on how to comment are here. And you can keep track of comments submitted in the docket here. After the public-comment period closes, we hope and expect that the PSC will approve, with all due speed, this bold new step forward on New York solar.

For the energy wonks amongst you, here are a few more details on the NYSERDA petition. Modeled after California’s successful program called the California Solar Initiative, NYSERDA proposes to establish a “declining megawatt block” incentive structure in which incentive levels drop in a stairstep fashion, as more solar is installed. This approach provides the market certainty for developers to secure financing, solicit customers, and staff up with good, local clean energy jobs. At the same time, it drives the market competition to deliver solar at a lower and lower cost over time, ensuring New Yorkers maximize the amount of solar deployed per public dollar invested.

In this year’s State of the State report, the governor hailed the progress of the NY-Sun program and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to it, providing some important new details on where the program is going. The governor announced a great new school and community “solarizing” program called Community Solar NY, which will help New York’s 5,000 public schools finance and install solar power systems on their roofs, reducing energy costs and creating a healthier environment. . Led by the New York Power Authority and NYSERDA, this initiative will also use solar schools as demonstration hubs to “solarize” entire neighborhoods, rallying the entire community around the benefits of solar. This new state initiative dovetails nicely with NRDC’s new Solar Schools initiative, which aims to share knowledge and expertise with schools around the country that want to move forward with solar.

In addition to these NYSERDA programs, the Long Island Power Authority is on track to secure an additional 100 megawatts of larger solar projects through its complementary Feed-in Tariff program; this builds on the 50 megawatts it has already procured via a FIT structure, as well as its very successful residential solar incentive program. Coupled with funding from NYPA to drive down the “soft costs” of solar installations — which were also highlighted in the State of the State report — the full NY-Sun suite of initiatives are impressive in both scope and scale.

In the coming months, NRDC will continue to work with our partners in environmental, business, labor and clean energy communities to engage in the Public Service Commission process to ensure the timely implementation of these critical program pieces to tie up the bow on NY-Sun, while also working closely with the governor’s team to roll out a strong solar school’s initiative. These important next steps will once again demonstrate Governor Cuomo’s track record of delivering on his commitments to make New York a leader in clean energy.

We’ll also be working hard on a suite of other clean energy initiatives in New York, including securing an extension and expansion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program – which seeks to spur various forms of renewable energy in New York, including wind energy, the state’s energy efficiency programs, and, launching a smart offshore wind program for the state. More on these important programs later!

Source: NRDC

Clean Energy Continues to Be a Smart Investment

By Peter Lehner

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Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City

Renewable energy isn’t just about cutting pollution. It also helps keep our homes heated and the lights on during extreme weather. When frigid temperatures last week caused the unexpected shutdown of two power plants in Texas, wind energy stepped in to help keep residents warm. According to Reuters, the state was able to avoid rolling blackouts and keep heaters running with the help of a critical boost of energy from West Texas wind farms, which turned the high winds of the bitter arctic front into clean electricity.

Clean, renewable energy and efficiency helped stabilize strained electric grids around the country during last week’s bizarre polar vortex, because early government and private investment in clean technologies has helped diversify our fossil-fuel dominated energy economy. We need more clean energy–not just to build a more resilient energy supply, but to power our economy, cut pollution, revitalize communities, and stabilize our climate. That’s why the government and the private sector have invested, and should continue to invest, in this young industry.

(credit: Organizing for Action, via Twitter)

Unfortunately, Congress just pulled the rug out from under the clean energy sector by allowing a suite of clean energy incentives in the tax code to expire at the end of last year. At the same time, century-old giveaways to oil and coal companies remain intact, bestowing billions of dollars in subsidies upon a mature, polluting industry. Congress should reverse course and reinstate these important clean energy incentives immediately.

Federal support for energy innovation helps attract critical private sector investment that allows clean energy projects to scale up and begin to make a real difference in the economy, the energy industry, and in people’s lives. Across the board, clean energy investment has been a successful strategy, bringing down energy costs, creating jobs, and moving this country closer to a 100 percent clean energy future.

We now have a solid, domestic wind industry that didn’t exist a decade ago. An estimated 72 percent of wind turbine parts for U.S. wind farms are manufactured domestically, a drastic turnaround over the past six years. According to a forthcoming analysis by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), more than 186,500 clean energy and clean transportation jobs have been announced in every state in the past two years alone.

The DOE’s Loan Guarantee program, which helps secure funding for innovative clean energy technologies, has an impressive track record that would please any investor, and has created 55,000 jobs to boot. Projects the program has helped fund include the world’s largest solar thermal power plant, one of the world’s largest wind farms, and the first two all-electric vehicle factories in the United States.

In addition to job growth, investing in clean energy has brought about a major reduction in energy costs. The price of solar panels is down 75 percent from 2008, and the cost of wind power has been cut in half over the past two decades.

Government has a history of supporting new technologies that are in the national interest, including defense technologies like GPS, and communication technologies like the internet. Supporting clean energy technologies that help create good jobs, improve the reliability of our energy supply, and reduce pollution is clearly in our national interest. Credit Suisse recently projected that renewable energy will meet 85 percent of new energy demand in America. On the other hand, continuing to pour money into a wealthy, established industry responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths every year from air pollution, and that helped fuel $100 billion in extreme weather disasters in 2012 alone, poses serious risks to our health, our economy, and our environment.

We need a more reliable, less polluting energy system that can see us through a future of more extreme weather, and usher us into an era of energy security and climate stability, with good, green jobs for American workers.

Investing in clean energy is an investment in our future. Thus far, it’s been a smart policy on many levels, successfully bringing down costs, creating jobs, boosting reliability and reducing pollution. Clean energy is a smart investment that will continue to pay dividends for our health, economy and environment for decades to come.

Source: NRDC

California Efficiency Programs: A Lot to Be Thankful For, but Room for Improvement

By Lara Ettenson

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Lara Ettenson, Director, California Energy Efficiency Policy, San Francisco

California has a host of amazing clean energy opportunities that save us money and energy, improve the environment, support a growing workforce, and enable the Golden State to be at the vanguard of clean tech. But even a state like ours has things to learn when it comes to capturing more energy savings from energy efficiency – our fastest, cleanest, and cheapest way to fight pollution and climate change.

As I noted in my recent three-part blog series, there is no doubt that the California utilities (both publicly and privately owned) have many great energy efficiency programs to offer customers that save money and energy, support a strong efficiency industry, and improve the air we breathe. Policymakers also helped continue our strong efficiency foundation in 2013 and at the same time, more needs to happen in 2014 to make sure we reach the state’s climate goals and truly rely on efficiency as our first option to meet our energy needs. Meaning, when the state’s residential, business, and industrial customers waste less energy by improving the efficiency of their products and buildings, utilities don’t need to spend as much to buy or generate the dirtier, more expensive energy to power our buildings and gadgets. We need to make sure our system is set up well to both enable and ensure all utilities do so.

While there are a number of successful rs, builders, retailers, and manufacturers can take advantage of to save money and energy, there are also programs that have room to grow. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle last month, the Energy Upgrade California – Home Upgrade Program has faced challenges in achieving the programs ambitious goals.

Before delving into the details of why this might be, it is important to put this program into context. California’s privately owned utilities invest nearly $1billion a year in efficiency programs, which is expected to provide nearly half a billion in net savings – that is, savings achieved above the cost of running them. Of course we also know that in addition to these direct energy savings, we get so much more out of these programs – like comfort, better work and living conditions, reduced noise, and other non-energy benefits.

The article aptly noted a number of key challenges with the current program and – as luck would have it – energy agencies, utilities, local governments, and stakeholders are already hard at work trying to improve it. We also need to keep in mind that the program:

  • Tried something that hadn’t been done at this scale before in California;
  • Addresses one of the most challenging and costly energy efficiency sectors out there. There is no question about it, getting single family home owners to take action on an individual basis is much more costly for contractors and customers than working at a bigger scale with large commercial and municipal buildings. In addition, residential customers don’t often want to be around during extensive retrofits (like getting insulation blown into their walls and ceilings) but also don’t have the option of moving out (which is one reason why upgrades at time of sale and move-in are so much easier);
  • Is considered a “market transformation” program — meaning these upgrades aren’t happening on their own. Customers need a lot of help and the program requires substantial upfront investment (both in time and money) in the near years to help build a market and reap substantial long term benefits in the outer years (5+); and
  • Is needed to comply with the state law that requires the upgrade of all existing buildings.

The California Public Utilities Commission also has a number of checkpoints in place to ensure that no one program overrides the benefits of the full portfolio of programs. For example:

  • This program comprises only a small portion (about 5%) of the ovCPUC Logo.jpgerall portfolio of programs;
  • There is a savings threshold requirement that builds in a “cushion” in case programs don’t perform as expected;
  • Programs that are not as cost-effective on their own are bundled among hundreds of other programs to ensure the overall benefits to customers — after accounting for the costs — always outweigh the costs in aggregate.

While there are areas to improve in this program, it is also important to remember a few things. First, California is by far a leader in the arena of energy efficiency programs, but there will be “fits and starts” from time to time as we venture into new and challenging areas. Second, new ideas that address challenging markets will take a while to start up as the kinks are worked out. Scrutiny and periodic “gut checks” are good ways to keep new programs on track, but sometimes “you have to burn down a few garages trying new ideas” before you can come up with the right fit.

California’s portfolio of programs ensure that customers — and the state as a whole – are reaping substantial benefits while at the same time letting utilities, local governments, and third parties (such as nonprofits and efficiency companies) try out new ways to get at those harder-to-reach energy saving opportunities. Let’s keep trying until we get it right.

Source: NRDC

USGBC Commends President Obama’s Memorandum to Accelerate Energy Efficiency in Building Facilities and Operations

By Marisa Long

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WASHINGTON, DC (Dec. 5, 2013) – Today, President Obama signed a memorandum directing the federal government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, more than double the current level.

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, released the following statement:

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Source: USGBC Nationals