The City of Pleasanton strives to be the greenest city in the state, and it also has one of the most comprehensive climate action plans in the Bay Area, focusing on land use and transportation, energy and renewables, waste minimization, water conservation, and community engagement. The City has won accolades from the Institute of Local Government, earning the Platinum level of the Beacon Award, the Mayors’ Climate Protection Award, and more.
The City has a multi-faceted strategy for managing sustainability and has integrated key best practices into its planning and implementation process. Those best practices include (1) formulating specific targets and performance measures, (2) promoting citizen and stakeholder participation in administrative design decisions for energy efficiency and sustainability, (3) engaging interested parties and sharing knowledge through sustainability networks and regional collaboration initiatives, (4) establishing a dedicated sustainability office with appropriate funding, (5) coordinating sustainability and energy programs with traditional services and economic development functions, and (6) leading by example – increasing sustainability initiatives by first practicing sustainability within local government operations and activities.
How much energy does the city/community spend on energy costs each year?
In total, Pleasanton’s community-wide greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and natural gas use account for approximately 35% of all emissions. More than half of this is from commercial buildings and industrial use, and a little less than half is from residential homes. Municipal operations contribute about 1.6% of the total energy use, including the energy used for street lighting and traffic signals. The City’s cost for this energy is just shy of $2 million each year.
To help reduce those costs, we’ve implemented many energy efficiency measures, such as installing 424 kW of solar on municipal sites, performing indoor lighting retrofits, and taking advantage of automated building systems, such as the public library’s lighting system, which reduces its energy use by 46%.
What political tools can you take advantage of that will help you make your city more sustainable/energy efficient?
While nearly all of the measures outlined in our community climate action plan are voluntary, the City has the ability to implement city codes, ordinances, and permitting standards to enhance green building, energy efficiency, and energy conservation. We are doing everything we can to enable residents and businesses to take small steps toward sustainability – making their homes and businesses more comfortable, reducing utility costs, and contributing to a vibrant local economy and new technologies – while maintaining or improving our local environment and protecting limited natural resources.
Fortunately, the Pleasanton community is highly educated and engaged, and residents and businesses are voluntarily doing their part to make their homes and businesses more sustainable, while they reap substantial benefits. Whether they are doing this to improve the environment, support the local economy, help create green jobs, or save money is immaterial. They are able to enjoy more comfortable homes and offices, reduced utility bills, and increased property values.
One of the most effective things we’ve done to help our businesses and residents is to create a local incentive program for solar installations and energy efficiency upgrades. This single program has been more effective than all of the combined state and regional programs. We’ve been able to provide significant rebates to nearly 300 households, streamlined the permitting process, and made the rebate process simple and straightforward.
What can businesses do to help the city achieve success?
The City has formed strategic partnerships with PG&E, the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, and Hacienda (the largest business park of its kind) to implement a focused outreach program to local businesses and facility managers. As a result, businesses reduced energy demand by 1.24MW in the first year. Programs such as this one are essential for building business relationships and providing useful resources for the community.
There are myriad ways businesses can embrace sustainability. By extension, these actions would help the City achieve its goals, but more importantly, allow the businesses to capture savings related to utility costs, equipment life-cycle/replacement costs, and operational costs. Currently, there are federal tax credits, state rebates, and regional incentives to help offset the initial investments of renewables and energy efficiency upgrades. Whether it’s changing a light bulb, buying locally, increasing recycling efforts, demanding producer responsibility (for reduced/recyclable packaging), or investing in renewable energy – everyone wins.
Written by Mayor Jerry Thorne and Operation Services Director Daniel Smith.