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October 14, 2009 > Fixing greenhouse gas emissions

Fixing greenhouse gas emissions

By Shavon Walker

Pollution has always been a concern in California. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) into law in 2006 to combat the growing problem. The state is now required to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Cities anticipate the state will require them to do the same and have either completed or are developing strategies to reduce local GHG emissions.

Milpitas is no exception. The City is participating in several different programs administered by the California Air Resources Board to target emissions from residential, commercial and city facilities.

City staff has identified three residential programs. The first, created by California Communities, a Joint Powers Authority, would charge the City a one-time, start-up fee of $15,000. Homeowners would borrow from the JPA to install energy-efficient windows and solar panels. The loans would be repaid with property tax collections. The second, sponsored by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and PG&E, is under development and expected in 2010 or 2011. It is likely to resemble the California Communities' program. The third, the California State Energy Program will award competitive grants to public agencies for their communities.

Commercial programs revolve around the state's Energy Plan which will award competitive grants to businesses, as well as residential applicants. These grants can be used for retrofitting and solar installation. Municipalities may eventually apply for these grants to fund alternative- energy programs. Some local businesses, such as SanDisk, LifeScan and the Humane Society Silicon Valley, adopted the Kyoto Protocol and the City has recognized their conservation and GHG-reduction efforts.

There are a number of actions being taken for city facilities. With help from Congressman Mike Honda, the City will receive $662,400 of funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for further energy efficiencies. Some of the monies will fund a report on the city's current energy use and replace obsolete heating, ventilating and air conditioning chiller equipment and street lighting.

Private investors can bid on solar panel-installation projects for City facilities. Later this month, a request for qualifications will be issued to developers of alternative energy. The city will be asked to sign a letter of commitment in November. Any problems with the bid process must be brought to light by December 2009. According to ABAG, the City of Milpitas is one of its top ten agency performers, ranking seventh in kilowatts per hour and fifth in total therms.

From a regulatory standpoint, the City has decided to inventory all gas emissions created by City operations. The team surveyed Finance, Buildings and Facilities, Public Works, Utilities, Transportation Planning and Fire. Findings reveal the City spent $1.7M on energy, Buildings and Facilities consuming the most at 28 percent. This data will be combined with another inventory on 2005 community-wide gas emissions to create a baseline.

Milpitas plans to use the baseline information to develop a Climate Action Plan. A twenty-year, solar power purchase agreement, with a two to three percent annual increase, is also planned.

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