What you can do to cut greenhouse gases
From planting trees near buildings to financing installation of solar panels, San Mateo County officials have released a list of things that can be done in the unincorporated areas of the county to meet a state deadline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020
A $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy has helped the county to come up with the plan, which requires a 17 percent reduction from the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions over the next eight years.
A list of proposals that would allow the county to meet the reduction goal was released on April 9 at a public workshop, the third in a series designed to get the public involved in developing what the county is calling an Energy Efficiency Climate Action Plan.
The information gathered in the process will be used to update parts of the county's general plan and zoning code.
The climate action plan concerns only unincorporated areas of the county. Individual cities and towns must come up with their own plans to meet the state's requirements.
The consultant on the plan, PMC, has done two studies to determine the amount of greenhouse gases that existed in the county's unincorporated areas in 2005, the base year for the project, and currently. The consultants measured carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases (such as hydrofluorocarbons) and determined where those gases come from.
The biggest sources are transportation (53 percent), commercial and industrial sources (18 percent), landfills (14 percent) and residential energy (10 percent).
According to Nora De Cuir of PMC, the climate action plan will be reviewed and adopted this summer and fall.
Go to tinyurl.com/Climate-664 for more information.
Among the strategies the county has proposed for reducing greenhouse gases in unincorporated areas are:
• Low-income household weatherization. The goal is participation by 25 percent of eligible households (or 1,632 households) at a cost of less than $25,000 and savings to the community of more than $500,000.
• Strengthen existing green building ordinance. The goal is participation of 100 percent of new construction at a cost of less than $25,000 and a savings of more than $500,000.
• Add incentives and possibly a loan fund for green building. The goal is participation by 550 households and 75 businesses at a cost of less than $100,000 and a savings of at least $200,000.
• A rebate program for residents similar to the current Energy Upgrade California program. The goal is participation of 36 percent of households (8,235) in the unincorporated area of the county, with a cost of more than $500,000 but a savings of more than $500,000.
• Financing for residential energy efficiency. The goal is participation of 3 percent of households (690) at a cost of more than $500,000 and a savings of between $200,000 and $500,000.
• Tree planting near buildings. The goal is participation by 2,300 homes at a cost of more than $500,000 and a savings of between $200,000 and $500,000.
• Regional energy saving partnerships with nearby communities on bulk purchases and neighborhood energy efficiency competitions. Goal is participation of 1,150 households and 31 businesses at a cost of less than $25,000 and savings of less than $25,000.
• Solar incentives. The goal is installation of solar systems in 55 residences and 18 commercial buildings at a cost of more than $500,000 and savings of less than $25,000.
• Incentives for solar water heaters. Install 27 residential and 9 commercial at a cost of more than $500,000 and a savings of less than $200,000.
• Pilot solar program. The goal is participation by 50 households in a pilot program at a cost of more than $500,000 each and savings of less than $100,000.
• Financing for renewable energy installations. The goal is participation by 3, 450 households and 93 businesses at a cost of more than $500,000 with a savings of more than $500,000.
• Wind energy. The goal is participation by 145 households and 62 businesses at a cost of at least $200,000 and with a savings of less than $200,000.
• Energy offset program, purchasing electricity from renewable sources to offset what new developments use. The goal is participation of 13 households with a cost and savings of less than $25,000.
• Waste to energy, encouraging the use of green and food waste to produce energy. The goal is diverting 4,250 tons of food and green waste into a waste to energy plant with a cost of more than $500,000 and a savings of less than $200,000.
• Diverting recyclables. The goal is to divert 60 percent of recyclables from the landfill by trying to get trash collection services to pick up more types of recyclables, outreach through RecycleWorks, recognizing businesses that have a high recycling rate and more regulations for trash collection enclosures.
• Zero waste. The goal is a 50 percent diversion of waste (not including food, green or paper waste) by 2020 and a 75 percent by 2035.
• Composting. The goal is a 25 percent diversion of food waste for commercial and residential customers.
Smart water meters. The goal is installation for every residential and commercial customer.
• Increase reuse of gray, rain and recycled water for landscaping and agricultural purposes. The goal is 25 percent of households.
• Transportation measures include updating zoning and the general plan to encourage transit-oriented or mixed use developments; requiring new projects to have designs that encourage walkability and connectivity; adding neighborhood retail where possible; requiring traffic calming measures and bike parking with new projects and renovations; optimizing transit routes and improving access to public transportation; and allowing parking requirements to be reduced by 10 percent.
• In the Middlefield, West Menlo Park and Emerald Lake Hills county commercial areas, move parking off-site and have those who need parking purchase it separately.
• Have employers increase transit assistance and charge for parking. Expand worker shuttle programs with a goal of participation by up to 20 percent of employers with 50 percent of employees participating.
• School transit. Restore or expand bus service, encourage ride-sharing and Safe Routes to Schools programs. Goal is to have at least 25 percent of schools participate with at least 25 percent of students in each school taking part.
Other strategies address commercial and industrial uses.