Atherton wants more info on 'zero net energy' plan


Atherton's City Council has asked for a lot more information about the costs and impacts of proposals by the town's Environmental Program Committee to reduce Atherton's greenhouse gas emissions, including a measure that would require all new buildings to be "zero net energy" (generating as much energy as they use).

The committee recommended a "climate action plan" it said would reduce Atherton's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2030. The recommendations go far beyond a 2007 state law that requires each municipality to show how it will reduce emissions by at least 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

In addition to the "zero net energy" proposal for new residential and commercial buildings, including the civic center now under design, the plan would create electric vehicle charging spaces, recapture rain water, and compost yard waste and other organics.

Council members had only about an hour left in their Nov. 4 study session when they began to discuss the plan, so did not spend much time on the details. After the meeting, City Manager George Rodericks said the issue is scheduled to return to the council at a Jan. 6 study session.

Mr. Rodericks said the town staff will bring back more information about each proposed measure, including costs and how much greenhouse gases will be reduced if the measures are required as part of the building code, for example, or offered with incentives.

Council members appeared to support going beyond the required 15 percent reduction, but leery of mandating the measures.

"This is an idea whose time has come," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, a liaison to the environmental committee. "We have got to address this issue." The town uses more resources than surrounding communities and has larger greenhouse gas emissions it needs to make up for, she said.

"We need to set our sights higher than what the minimum is," she said.

Councilman Cary Wiest offered a note of caution. "Mandating (the changes) could affect our potential building. People may not want to build here when we have mandates that are greater than any place in the county," he said.

The staff report and climate action plan are on the town's website.

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