In an attempt to negate energy usage in county owned buildings over the next couple of decades, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted the Zero Net Energy Resolution.
The board voted 4-1, with 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam casting the lone dissenting vote.
“We should comply with state law and nothing more, and I think it’s the wrong way to allocate our resources,” said Adam.
As a result of the resolution, all new county facilities beginning the design process after 2025 must produce more energy than they consume, using a combination of renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency. Major renovations are included in the requirement, with all existing county owned facilities becoming zero net energy users by 2035.
Those dates align with the state’s timeline for transitioning its own buildings, but supervisors Salud Carbajal, Janet Wolf and Doreen Farr, questioned whether the resolution was aggressive enough.
“When I look at the dates, they seem a little far out,” said Farr, who represents the 3rd District. “What I want to do is shave five years off of each [benchmark].”
The resolution is part of the 2014 Sustainability Progress Report, which assesses the county’s progress toward creating greener practices, as promised in Santa Barbara County’s 2010 Sustainability Action Plan.
The action plan and its parent resolution, adopted in 2009, committed the county to swift, cost effective and coordinated actions to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The resolution is proposed as a way of slashing local energy needs within county owned facilities and, subsequently, the local government’s emissions levels. Energy usage in buildings is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state and compromises 40 percent of the country’s energy usage.
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The resolution itself doesn’t cost the county anything, but the Board of Supervisors must approve funding for any future projects proposed to address the resolution’s directives. To achieve zero net energy usage, the progress report introduces a Renewable Energy Transition Plan, offering a phased approach to updating the county’s existing facilities with a combination of solar and wind power.
Staff presented a list of 15 county facilities slated to receive renewable energy systems during the plan’s first phase, which is estimated to cost $946,000, according to General Services Assistant Director Greg Chanis. Chanis estimates that the new energy systems will pay for themselves in less than 10 years. Together, the proposed facilities currently consume 483,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year.
Since adopting the Sustainabilty Action Plan, the county has completed the 2013 Energy Action Plan, two large-scale solar projects and continued work on an Energy and Climate Action Plan for the county’s unincorporated areas. The empowerSBC program was also expanded to make efficient home energy easier and more affordable for area homeowners.
“Sustainability is also about the combined effect of many smaller actions,” according to Chanis. “Every department in the county has implemented changes to achieve the goal of reducing our use of resources.”
The board also approved the allocation of this year’s Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund money, splitting the $681,857 between 12 projects from around the county.
The final allocation follows a lengthy public hearing Feb. 18, at which the board provided detailed insight into staff’s recommended awards.
The Guadalupe-based Dune’s Center and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum were added to the list of grantees after February’s public hearing. The Dunes Center received $80,000 to collect and preserve artifacts from the filming of Cecile B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. The Maritime Museum received $30,000 to upgrade its presentation technology. However, Lompoc lost its $100,000 grant to stabilize portions of the Santa Ynez River.
The county created CREF as a permit condition for oil and gas projects in the 1980s. The fund is one of several measures the county uses to mitigate negative impacts on coastal recreation, visual aesthetics, tourism and sensitive resources. Since 1988, the county has awarded more than $21 million in CREF funds.