In Gov. Jerry Brown’s second inaugural address Jan. 5, he proposed three ambitious environmental goals for the next 15 years: increase from one-third to 50 percent the electricity derived from renewable sources; reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; and double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.
Can we achieve any of those goals here in Los Altos? The answer is a definite yes – and in far less than 15 years. How? By implementing our Climate Action Plan (CAP).
In December 2013, the Los Altos City Council adopted the CAP, with the target of reducing our community’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15 percent by 2020. It focuses on actions we can take regarding transportation, energy, waste, water and municipal operations.
How can we achieve that first goal of having 50 percent of our energy derived from renewable sources?
One way is to install more solar photovoltaic panels on homes and businesses. Another option is for Los Altos to form – or join – a Community Choice energy program. Community Choice energy allows local communities to contract directly with renewable energy providers while continuing to allow PG&E to distribute the power on its lines and provide customer service. The advantage is that we can simultaneously double the renewable energy we receive and reduce our electricity costs. This could take us 80 percent of the way toward reaching our CAP target.
Two existing Community Choice energy programs – Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power – currently operate in the state. Each formed a Joint Powers Agency (JPA) where representatives from the participating cities govern the program, ensuring local control.
Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale are studying the formation of a JPA to initiate a Community Choice energy program in Santa Clara County. Los Altos could join also.
How could we reduce petroleum use in our cars and trucks by 50 percent?
Two obvious ways are by driving less and making use of alternative fuels. Our CAP calls for fully implementing our Bicycle Transportation Plan and our upcoming Pedestrian Master Plan, which will make it safer and easier to bike or walk in Los Altos.
We can also drive vehicles that don’t use petroleum, like electric cars. We have already begun doing that.
Did you know that Los Altos has one of the highest concentrations of electric vehicles in the state? Our CAP includes providing the infrastructure for electric-vehicle charging stations by building standards that include prewiring for commercial and residential developments. We have already installed three public charging stations. Replacing our city fleet vehicles with hybrid or electric vehicles is part of our CAP as well.
How can we double the efficiency of buildings? The David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters provides an excellent example of a net-zero energy building – one that produces as much energy as it uses. A zero PG&E bill!
Part of our CAP is to adopt net-zero electricity building standards for new residential and commercial buildings. And adopting higher energy-efficiency standards when remodels occur can help improve existing buildings while simultaneously reducing the energy bill.
I am always impressed by the commitment of Los Altos residents to sustainability and clean energy. Let’s continue to lead the way to a greener future.
Mayor Jan Pepper
Note: Reprinted with permission from Los Altos Town Crier: