What is the City’s Energy and Sustainability Strategy?
The Ventura community has long maintained a strong environmental ethic. Whether it’s conserving our hills and open space, protecting our picturesque rivers and beaches, or keeping our City safe and clean, Ventura residents value our natural assets and are active in preserving and protecting our environment.
Building on a long history of environmental responsibility, early strategic efforts include the City’s 2007 “Green Initiative,” a ten-point action plan designed to reduce environmental impacts from municipal operations. The goals of the initiative included reducing energy and vehicle fuel use, developing a green purchasing policy, educating employees about green practices and forming a Green Team to help implement these programs. The initiative also fostered a “green” culture that supports our on-going sustainability efforts and positively impacts the economic viability of our organization.
Last year, the City completed an Environmental Sustainability Strategy for Municipal Operations, an approach that accelerates Ventura’s environmental performance and fiscal responsibility by improving operational efficiency and decreasing resource consumption.
A cooperative effort between the Environmental Sustainability Division and the City green team, the strategy is designed to consolidate the efforts of individual City divisions into a single document, establish goals and strategies, and provide a process for tracking progress over time. The report is intended to be used as a “living document” that will be updated as new goals, objectives, and actions are identified.
How much energy does the city/community spend on energy costs each year?
According to a community-wide greenhouse gas inventory conducted in 2010, Ventura generates about 880,000 metric tons of carbon annually, of which 38% of emissions come from building energy use. Transportation related emissions represent about 58% of emissions, while emissions from landfilled waste represent 4% of emissions. Meanwhile, the City’s greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations are about 12,000 metric tons annually, a small fraction (1.4%) of the community-wide total emissions. This drives home the fact that cities must support community-wide greenhouse gas reduction efforts if California hopes to achieve the ambitious goals established by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
While environmental benefits are often the driving force behind energy conservation and renewable energy projects, these endeavors also support regional economic growth as they help to keep dollars in the local economy. When you consider that the amount of electricity used annually by the entire Ventura community is more than 580 million kilowatt hours (about $75 million), and the amount of electricity used annually by the City is more than 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity (about $4.5 million) a substantial amount of money spent on electricity goes out of the community to large utilities and energy producers. Energy saving projects often support local “green” jobs in the lighting, heating and air-conditioning, and renewable energy trades, and once the payback period on the energy saving project is over, the lower utility bills are cash-in-hand for businesses and residents.
The City of Ventura has realized these benefits first-hand as we have saved more than $2.1 million over the last 4 years by reducing electricity use by 15% and vehicle fuel by 20%.
What political tools can you take advantage of that will help you make your city more sustainable/energy efficient?
One of the ways the City can support sustainable practices throughout the community is to create policies that make environmentally sustainable projects faster and more affordable to implement. For example, our City Council approved a policy that provides an expedited permitting process for private developments that incorporate green building practices. We can also use incentives in the permitting process to facilitate “green” enhancements to existing buildings. As an example, in September 2010, the permitting fee for installing solar photovoltaic systems was dropped from $254 to $1 per kilowatt installed, resulting in a 50% increase in permit applications. The incentive facilitated $105,000 in sustainable improvements that support the local “green” economy.
Another important role for the City is to promote shared community goals by facilitating partnerships and strengthening existing linkages between local organizations. In May 2012, the City partnered with the Chamber of Commerce Green Task Force, educators, green industry leaders and other government officials to host a Green Jobs Summit. Interested citizens, job seekers and employers took part in the day-long event that featured panel discussions on the economic, education and employment needs of the emerging green economy. The well-attended event was a success and provided an opportunity to engage the public and better position the green industry in our community; plans are already underway for our 2013 Summit.
What can businesses do to help the city achieve success?
Businesses play a vital role in creating a community that uses our natural resources and energy wisely. In fact, businesses and institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.) use about 67% of the electricity consumed in Ventura, while residential properties use the remaining 33%. Investing in energy efficient equipment and lighting is a practical way to reduce operational costs and contribute to the larger effort of protecting natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The City has recently implemented a Green Business Certification program that recognizes businesses that meet certain environmental performance standards, including energy efficiency. The program encourages businesses to educate employees about environmentally friendly practices with the ultimate goal of creating a business culture that considers the environment in its day to day operations. Business owners and managers can also join the Ventura Chamber of Commerce Green Task Force, which meets monthly and provides an open venue for environmentally minded businesses to share ideas and best practices.
Our goal is to help local businesses conserve resources, take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities to improve their bottom line, and create sustainable practices that will help improve the future for Ventura.
The author, Mike Tracy was appointed to serve as Mayor of Ventura by his colleagues in December 2011. Tracy was elected to the Ventura City Council in November 2009 and served as Deputy Mayor during the first two years of his term.