Dec 28, 2018
I don’t think that many of us in Sonoma Countyy question the reality of climate change. Its disastrous effects were made too painfully evident by the unprecedented size, speed, and destructiveness of our recent wildfires. Although the current administration refuses to acknowledge and confront the issue, we understand that we are in a race against time to develop renewable energy sources and drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.
Many of us, as individuals, work conscientiously to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). But each municipality has a much bigger carbon footprint than any individual resident or family. Since being elected to the Healdsburg City Council, I’ve made reducing our city’s GHG emissions a high priority. Happily, the Council has stepped up to the plate and taken the following measures to reduce GHG:
• Authorized the installation of photovoltaic arrays for our wastewater treatment ponds.
When fully installed, the floating solar array will generate 80% of the energy used by the wastewater facility and prevent the growth of algae. It will also save ratepayers more than a million dollars over the 20-year lifespan of the project. Construction of the first phase is slated for completion by the end of 2019.
• Directed the City to power facilities and operations with renewable energy.
The City of Healdsburg will join the City of Sonoma, Sonoma Water (the former Sonoma County Water Agency) and the County of Marin in using 100% renewable energy in all of our facilities and operations. Using geothermal energy from the Geysers will reduce our carbon footprint by about 610 metric tons of CO2-equivalent each year. For comparison, the average home emits 6.7 metric tons of CO2-equivalent each year from electricity, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
• Directed staff to conduct energy audits to maximize efficiency.
City staff will conduct energy audits at City facilities such as the Police and Fire Departments, the Community Center, and Senior Center. Energy-efficient upgrades will help offset the slightly higher cost of using 100% renewable energy.
• Purchases energy from specific no-carbon and low-carbon sources.
Because the City of Healdsburg operates its own electric utility, outages are far less frequent and of shorter duration than those suffered by PGE customers, and our rates are 30 percent lower. In addition, we have the opportunity to decrease Green House Gas emissions throughout the city by increasing the percentage of power purchased from low-carbon (geothermal) and no-carbon (hydroelectric) sources. In 2017, these renewable sources provided 77% of electricity used by Healdsburg’s residents. The remaining 23% came from natural gas generation as well as “unspecified energy sources.” By directing staff to purchase energy exclusively from specified low-and no-carbon sources we can further reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate, our GHG emissions.
As individual resident ratepayers, we can support renewable energy by opting for the Healdsburg Green Rate. That is, we can agree to pay 1.8 cents more per kilowatt hour, or about 10 percent more per month, so the City can procure renewable energy to match our monthly consumption. The city of Palo Alto used this method as they transitioned to 100% renewable energy for all their residents. I’m urging all Healdsburg residents who can afford a slightly higher utility bill to join me in selecting the Green Rate option. It’s easy! Either go to http://bit.ly/GreenRate to fill out the form online and submit it to the utility billing department or stop by City Hall and sign the form available in the lobby.
I’m grateful to our resourceful Utilities Director, Terry Crowley, our Utilities Conservation Analyst, Felicia Smith, and the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA), which is a consortium of locally-owned electrical utilities that helps ensure an affordable, reliable, and clean supply of energy for customers. Their efforts have enabled Healdsburg to take these very important steps in reducing our carbon footprint.
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