By Mark Braly
Davis is the first city in the nation to adopt the goal of carbon neutrality by the middle of this century. This ground-breaking goal will entail a three-step process – net zero electricity, net zero energy, and finally net zero carbon. This is a finding of a white paper issued today by the UC Davis Energy Institute and the Valley Climate Action Center.
All of these “net zero” goals are achievable through maximum cost-effective reductions in demand for energy, supplemented by renewable energy – solar, wind, bioenergy, and geothermal heat stored in the ground.
Read the study here >>
“The biggest barrier to achieving a net zero goal,” according to the report, “is the need for timely decisions backed up by credible analysis and reliable data. The need is for decision support for Davis governmental leaders and energy users." Recommendations include:
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· The city must work with its energy utility PG&E to get finely detailed end-use data which shows time variations in energy demand and the location of the energy-use “hot spots.” These “hot spots” are where there is the greatest opportunity to displace carbon-based energy. State legislation allows cities considering Community Choice Aggregation (CCA, a new form of local government-owned utilities) to get this data.
· Every building in Davis should have its own step-by-step long range master plan for zero carbon. The city should be a dynamic source of information for property owners about best available technologies, incentives and innovative financing opportunities, reliable local contractors, and purchasing cooperatives for volume discounts. Policy and funding is needed to provide living demonstrations of net zero improvements in the major types of existing buildings.
· The city should work with the private sector to upgrade local industry capacity and jobs while bringing innovative clean energy products and services to Davis residents and businesses.
· The city should conduct surveys to determine what individual households and property owners are willing to do to help the city achieve its climate action goals. Such efforts are underway now – led by the Cool Davis Initiative – as the city competes starting April 1 in the Cool California Cities Challenge.
· With 51% of its dwelling units rented, the city must overcome a split incentive hurdle – in which tenants often pay the utility bills, but landlords must make the investments in energy improvements. Valuable incentives are becoming available for solar water heating installations in multi-family buildings, as well as innovative and attractive financing tied to the property title (commonly referred to as PACE, an acronym for “property-assessed clean energy financing”). The city and university must take cooperative steps to promote lower utility bills in in the local rental market.
· Link plug-in electric vehicles to solar or other renewable energy systems so that recharging vehicles doesn’t add to peak utility loads or the city’s carbon footprint. Electric vehicle charging must be managed to harness low-cost, excess nighttime power. With this step, consumers will benefit by capping their fuel costs for many years into the future.
· Develop an economic optimization model to identify the best mix of local renewable energy resources for Davis.
The study shows that energy efficiency opportunities for Davis’ existing stock of buildings are huge. About 42% of Davis dwelling units were built before 1978 when the state’s Title 24 energy code went into effect. There is potential to reduce electricity use by 24% and gas by 14% by 2016 using cost-effective improvements currently available. Later this year, AB 1103 will take effect and require all commercial buildings to be benchmarked for energy efficiency in relation to the federal Energy Star rating system before they are sold, leased or financed. The city’s experience with this segment of the market could lead to similar programs for apartment buildings and homes.
The report lists Davis’ advantages and disadvantages for achieving its climate goals. A disadvantage is its large number of rental units and its transient population of students.
Advantages include its environmentally-conscious residents. Evidence for this is the 7 megawatts of solar capacity already funded by private investments in and around Davis, which comprises a solid share of Davis’ 50 megawatts of energy demand. With an increasing percentage of the city’s unshaded roof tops covered by solar panels, the study recommends the innovative concept of “solar gardens” that would allow residents to buy solar energy from community-scale installations such as PVUSA. Davis and other local governments will have to push for legislation that permits solar gardens to deliver renewable energy locally through lines owned by incumbent utilities. Senator Wolk is already sponsoring such legislation in SB 843.
Another Davis advantage is its world-class system of bicycle paths and bicyclists willing to meet some of their transportation needs using zero carbon pedal power.
Also, UC Davis is a national center of excellence on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Campus expertise can help the city evaluate the best available practices from across the world. Already, UC Davis’ net-zero-energy West Village development is providing important lessons and inspiration to city efforts.
“This report is an important step toward implementation of the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan adopted in 2009,” notes Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza. “We are deeply appreciative of the work of the UC Davis team and the Valley Climate Action Center. Now it’s incumbent on all of us to put the finding to work for Davis. I know we will.”
The study was done in collaboration with the UC Davis Energy Institute, directed by Professor Bryan Jenkins. The team was organized by energy industry veteran Gerry Braun on behalf of the Energy Institute. It was staffed by UC Davis energy experts and graduate students led by Alan Wecker. It was funded by the Valley Climate Action Center (formerly Yolo Energy Efficiency Project.) The team brought together academic, public and private sector experts to discuss zero options for Davis.
Currently, Mayor Krovoza is leading a series of meetings that include UC Davis, city, and private sector participants who are collaborating on proposals for further funding of the work recommended by the Net Zero Davis team.