Published March 16, 2004
Volume 12, Number 3

New Pleasanton Committee Begins Work to Implement Energy Plan

Deregulation of California’s energy markets has produced a number of changes to how electricity, natural gas, and other resources are produced, distributed, and used in the state. While deregulation has had some negative impacts, county and city governments are working to assess the new rules for the power market to ensure a plentiful supply now and in the future.

Locally, that effort started in 2002 with the creation of the Pleasanton Energy Advisory Group (now known as the Pleasanton Energy Committee), a task force that published the City of Pleasanton Energy Plan in December of that year. The Energy Plan contains a breakdown of the city’s goals as well as preliminary implementation and action plans for their energy policies. Those ideas, as well as many others, are now being considered for inclusion in a new Energy Element which will be added to Pleasanton’s award-winning General Plan.

Roche Energy Facility
Roche Molecular Systems has installed natural gas-powered cogeneration
machinery, above, to help meet the electricity needs of their Hacienda facility.

“There’s so much opportunity with the way that we use energy to benefit the community, both residents and businesses, in lowering their energy costs, as well as a tremendous opportunity to help the environment by implementing energy efficiency measures and renewable energy measures,” explains Matt Sullivan, chair of the Pleasanton Energy Committee and a member of the city’s Planning Commission. “The final thing is (the opportunity for) local control and local investment of these dollars in our community.  Those three things could be huge benefits to the community.”

One of the Pleasanton Energy Committee’s chief advocates of energy conservation is vice chair Jerry Thorne.

“The semiconductor products group of Hewlett-Packard’s facilities organization used to report into me and I got pretty heavily involved in energy conservation as a part of that,” he explains. “At the end of the day, it’s amazing how much of it just makes good business sense. We saved a lot of money and it’s amazing with all the buildings we used to have how much we could save on energy bills just by doing some simple things with lighting, for example.

“I remember the old days when we used to have four bulbs in each fixture and the old fashioned ballast. Change the ballast out, put some reflectors in, and pull down two bulbs out of each fixture, it saves a lot of money. Just simple little things like that – motion detectors in conference rooms, that sort of thing. I found it made a huge difference and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Solar Panel Installation
Energy Plan Balances Economic, Environmental Issues

The interest in and commitment to energy issues, as shown by the committee’s chair and vice chair, reflects the dedication that the committee brought to the formulation of an Energy Plan for Pleasanton.

There were a number of guiding principles behind creating the Energy Plan, with much attention given to balancing a variety of interests. In the end, the group formulated the following policy principles:

• Support options that will reduce market volatility, stabilize rates, and increase reliability.
• Enhance the general quality of life through energy strategies that will benefit the community.
• Promote ecologically-friendly propositions that create a healthy environment.
• Promote good stewardship through energy conservation and efficiency practices.
• Support opportunities for local economic vitality.
• Emphasize sustainable/renewable power sources.
• Favor locally distributed power opportunities.

Shaklee Complex
With those guiding principles established, the group created an Action Plan that is now providing the blueprint for discussions about the new General Plan element as well as other programs and activities Pleasanton might conduct. Divided into broad categories, it covers six areas: advocacy and education; reducing Pleasanton’s energy demand; supporting and developing ordinances, policies, programs, and legislation; developing financial possibilities; creating alliances; and improving Pleasanton’s energy supply. Some of the specific ideas include:

Advocacy and Education
One of the first tasks to be accomplished is educating the public about the importance of energy conservation and the availability of renewable energy sources, public and private energy-related programs, and rebates. The plan also suggests that the City sponsor energy-related workshops and invite local builders, architects, homeowners, and business owners and distribute educational materials to schools, library, media, and other organizations.

Reducing Pleasanton’s Energy Demand
The overall goal here is to promote, support, and implement energy efficiency and conservation programs and measures. Ideas include developing new energy efficiency standards for municipal buildings and creating plans with incentives such as fee adjustments or rebates for projects that exceed yet-to-be determined energy and water efficiency and Green Building standards. Other potential areas of improvement include new irrigation system standards, promotion of heat-load reduction strategies such as the use of landscaping to shade new homes and developments, and promotion of energy and water conservation features in major renovation and new development projects.

Supporting and Developing Ordinances, Policies, Programs, and Legislation
The main task under this category is the creation of the General Plan Energy Element itself. Other proposed tasks include adoption of a local Generator Facility Siting Ordinance (which was completed last year), pursuing funding and grant applications for energy-related projects, and evaluating the establishment of a non-profit Community Energy Services Corporation to help implement the City’s energy programs.

Wind Turbine
Electricity generated from wind turbines is another possibility that the
Pleasanton Energy Committee is investigating.

Develop Financial Possibilities
The Energy Plan recommends exploring the possibility of using the same market dynamic – group buying power – to find suitable private partners to create local markets for renewable power generation, energy efficiency, and energy conservation products and services. This may entail creating or joining a program that would distribute and install energy generation and efficiency equipment at a discounted price. The plan also recommends that financing options for a variety of energy projects be explored.

Creating Alliances
The plan recognizes the importance of identifying both people who can use information and programs the committee can develop and who can assist in the development of programs and information. Participation in public/private partnerships as well as state or Federal government programs is also encouraged.

Improving Pleasanton’s Energy Supply
There are a number of actions being considered in this area, ranging from the establishment of a local municipal electricity utility or partnering with other municipalities in power cooperatives to increasing the use of solar, wind, and other renewable power generating technologies. The overall goal is to make Pleasanton more energy self-sufficient and, to the degree feasible, build greater local control into the availability of energy.

Critical Work Just Beginning
While the Pleasanton Energy Plan was published over a year ago, the work to craft the Energy Element for the General Plan is just beginning. Despite the fact that the days of rolling blackouts seem long past, Sullivan stresses the importance of the committee’s work.

“With issues like energy, if it suddenly captures the public’s attention it’s already an emergency and there’s not much you can do about it,” he says. “I think we should be proactive and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Thanks in large part to the group’s work, progress has already been made. The City is currently participating in a pilot program funded by the California Energy Commission studying Community Aggregation, the purchase of energy by municipalities as defined by Assembly Bill 117, the Community Choice Law.

“With Community Aggregation, cities or groups of cities are able to go out and buy electricity from the power producers under contract and then provide it to members of their community,” Sullivan explains. “That creates a revenue stream which can be invested into other energy projects.”

Most of the work is yet to be done, though, and the Pleasanton Energy Committee is actively seeking input from the public as well as the business community. They meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Operations Service Center, 3333 Busch Road, with additional subcommittee meetings scheduled at different times. Phone Robin Eisenwinter, City of Pleasanton Planning Department, at (925) 931-5612 for additional information.


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