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Local Action Roundup

by Natasha Umer Feb 09, 2011

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Get DOE's Updated Solar Guidebook for Local Governments

by Don Knapp Feb 08, 2011

Palm Desert Solar Panels

Solar panels in Palm Desert, CA

As more local governments set up solar panels to capture the sun's energy, the Department of Energy is capturing something nearly as valuable: their lessons learned.

solar powering your community guide coverToday DOE's Solar America Communities program released the second edition of "Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments," a free, comprehensive resource to help local governments scale solar in their communities. The Guide is designed to help any local government understand the range of strategies, successes, policies, and programs trailblazed by DOE's original 25 Solar America Cities. A little more than a year has passed since DOE released the first edition of the Guide. What's different in the second edition?

"Profiles of new innovations and market developments, and additional case studies that share in-depth experience from leading local governments," says Lisa Milligan, ICLEI USA's Director of Sustainable Energy, who is leading up ICLEI's partnership with DOE to deliver technical trainings and guidance to local governments based on the Guide.

small green arrow icon View the Guide


Inside the Guide

DOE's Solar America Communities website describes the Guide as follows:

The guide introduces a range of policy and program options that have been successfully field tested in cities and counties around the country. The guide describes each policy or program, followed by more information on:

  • Benefits: Identifies benefits from implementing the policy or program.
  • Implementation Tips and Options: Outlines various tips and options for designing and implementing the policy or program.
  • Examples: Highlights experiences from communities that have successfully implemented the policy or program.
  • Additional References and Resources: Lists additional reports, references, and tools that offer more information on the topic, where applicable.


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San Francisco Passes Sweeping Building Energy Efficiency Law

by SF Environment Staff Feb 08, 2011

San Francisco Rooftops

Yesterday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved groundbreaking policy aimed at transforming commercial buildings from the biggest energy users in the city to the biggest energy savers.

The newly adopted “Existing Commercial Building Energy Performance Ordinance” requires commercial property owners to measure and rate, or “benchmark” the energy performance of their buildings and make energy ratings available to the public. The ordinance also requires owners to conduct energy audits every five years.

While benchmarking and auditing will be relatively new practices for smaller building owners, many large property managers already use these proven energy-saving techniques, including those profiled below.

This decision comes just a week after President Obama unveiled his “Better Buildings Initiative” aimed at reducing energy use in buildings by 20 percent by 2020 by improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

Benchmarking building energy performance is widely regarded as the critical first step that owners can take to start taking control of energy use and costs; and more cities and states are starting to require owners to do so, including Seattle, New York City, Austin and Washington D.C. and California and Washington state.

Below is additional information on San Francisco’s new law and similar efforts around the nation:

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The Clean Energy Road to 2035 Paved by the Hard Work of Local Governments

by Martin Chavez, ICLEI USA Executive Director Feb 08, 2011

Men Working on Solar Panel

Originally published on the Huffington Post by Martin Chavez, ICLEI USA Executive Director

During his State of the Union address, President Obama threw down the innovation gauntlet to Congress and the American people in declaring that 80 percent of our nation's energy will come from clean energy sources by 2035. This ambitious target is both necessary and achievable -- and local governments have been demonstrating for years why and how that's the case.

Martin ChavezWhy It's a Worthwhile Goal

While President Obama framed his clean energy target as a way to boost American innovation -- and, in turn, "win the future" -- there are several other reasons why this goal is particularly worthy of a 21st century Apollo Program. Following the State of the Union, both Mayor Patrick Hays of North Little Rock, Arkansas and I made the case that significantly increasing clean energy production in line with the President's target is necessary for the sustained prosperity and well-being of all Americans.

Indeed, clean energy has been a proven job creator: through the decade preceding the financial crisis -- at a time when Washington was largely deaf to calls for support for the clean energy sector -- clean energy jobs grew at a faster rate than the overall jobs growth rate, employing over 700,000 people. As we move into the new normal economy and the global demand for clean energy technologies expands, the "clean energy creates jobs" mantra is only going to become more familiar: according to a 2010 report by the Pew Environment Group, investments in clean energy could equal $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years.

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How to Integrate Solar Energy into Public Facilities

by Adrienne DeAngelo Feb 03, 2011

Solar Solutions ReportGovernments can reap the rewards of using solar energy by incorporating creative solar power projects into public infrastructure, according to a new report from Western Resource Advocates. The report, titled "Solar Solutions: Incorporating Photovoltaics into Public Infrastructure,” details how local and regional governments can, and do, integrate sustainable energy generation into their public facilities.

Buildings, airports, parks, shade structures, water supply systems, sound barriers, and even public art can feature photovoltaic (PV) solar systems that generate electricity. The report also highlights how local governments can design, build, pay for, and overcome barriers to PV installations for buildings and other public structures and landscapes.  With each passing year, PV has become less expensive and more cost-competitive with other sources of electric power.

Photovoltaic electric generation is a mainstream technology. It can provide energy that is immune to sudden price fluctuations, has no fuel costs, and requires minimal water consumption.  Since public infrastructure is already in place, there are few new land use impacts.
“More and more communities are creating sustainability plans. PV projects can help meet sustainability goals by providing stably priced electricity and reducing the environmental impacts of power generation,” said David Berry, the report’s author.

Western Resource Advocates is a regional non‐profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the West’s land, air and water.

small green arrow icon View the Report  


Source: Western Resources Advocate Press Release

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Local Governments Ready to Act on President Obama’s Clean Energy Challenge

by Guillermo Meneses, Communications Director Feb 03, 2011


Local governments are giving high marks to President Obama and his Administration for its steadfast commitment to fostering innovation and building a roadmap to a clean energy economy that will create jobs and improve the quality of life of city residents throughout the nation. 

In his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed several bold and innovative clean energy proposals

  • producing 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035
  • putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015

On behalf of our more than 600 local government members across the nation, ICLEI USA commends the President’s actions. “These actions proposed by the President will clearly put a 21st century America on the right track to bolstering much needed job creation and clean tech innovation that will be a catalyst for building healthier communities and a cleaner environment for future generations,” remarked ICLEI USA Executive Director Martin Chávez

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Webinar Recap for Plan B: National Climate Action in a Post-Climate-Bill World

by Don Knapp Feb 02, 2011

Warning sign with question mark

On Jan. 26, ICLEI brought together a panel of experts to discuss a national path forward on climate mitigation -- in the obvious absence of a federal climate and energy bill. To find out the details, view the recorded webinar video or download the presentation slides.

small green arrow icon View the Recorded Webinar

small green arrow icon Download the Presentation Slides

In short, a "plan B" on national climate action would require a patchwork approach. Powers to lower GHGs includes a mix of authorities and actions at the federal, regional, state and local levels across the United States:
  • EPA can regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act.
  • DOE can increase efficiency standards.
  • The block of states in the Northeast has an active cap-and-trade system called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
  • States such as California are actively moving forward with regulations for GHGs and are requiring energy efficiency and renewable energy in state.
  • Local governments are moving forward as well, with better building and zoning codes, smarter transportation and even carbon taxes in some jurisdictions.
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New Report Profiles Five Innovative "Community Wind" Financing Projects

by Adrienne DeAngelo Jan 31, 2011

Girls and Wind Turbine

Five innovative new financing structures are the subject of a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The report, titled "Community Wind: Once Again Pushing the Envelope of Project Finance," examines how each project was financed and distills pertinent lessons learned from the experiences of the projects.

The purpose of this report is to disseminate useful information on these new financial structures, most of which are widely replicable, and to highlight the recent policy changes – many of them temporary unless extended – that have facilitated this innovation.
The community wind sector in the United States has historically served as a test bed or proving grounds not only for up-and-coming wind turbine manufacturers trying to break into the broader U.S. wind market, but also for wind project financing structures. 
Five community wind projects built over the past year have been financed via new and creative structures that push the envelope of wind project finance:LBNLReport_Jan2011
  1. Maine: a 4.5 MW project that combines low-cost government debt with local tax equity
  2. Minnesota: 25.3 MW project using a sale/leaseback structure
  3. South Dakota: a 10.5 MW project financed by an intrastate offering of both debt and equity
  4. Washington: a 6 MW project that taps into New Markets Tax Credits using an “inverted” or “pass-through” lease structure
  5. Oregon: a 9 MW project that combines a variety of state and federal incentives and loans with unconventional equity from high-net-worth individuals.
In most cases, these are first-of-their-kind structures that could serve as useful examples for other projects – both community and commercial wind alike. A new Berkeley Lab report describes each of these innovative new financing structures in some detail, using a case-study approach. 

small green arrow icon View the Report


Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 

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Inside Montgomery County’s Historic Carbon Tax

by Rena Ragimova Jan 31, 2011

Smoke stack and co2 cloud

Without so much as a blueprint, the small community of Montgomery County, MD, instituted a daring plan for reducing emissions by levying the nation's first local carbon tax. 

Our webinar, "Inside the Nation’s First Local Carbon Tax Legislation in Montgomery County, MD," held Jan. 21, 2011, explored how Montgomery County enacted its historic tax law and the obstacles it encountered along the way. The panelists, Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner and Chesapeake Climate Action Network Director Mike Tidwell, offered valuable insights on ways to create tax law legislation in your own community.

If you missed the webinar, view the slideshow or listen to the presentation it in its entirety:

small green arrow icon Download the Presentation Slides (pdf)

small green arrow icon View the Recorded Webinar


The Back Story

Faced with a looming budget deficit and a mandated 80% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050, Montgomery County needed a solution that would reduce emissions without increasing the deficit. Sound familiar? Officials calculated that by charging $5 for every ton of CO2 emitted by a major emitter, they could generate revenue to slash the deficit, and reduce carbon emissions. 

A carbon tax is one of the market-based policies that use the price signal to spur greenhouse gas emissions reduction. With the absence of an effective national climate policy, local governments, as always, are moving forward with innovative local solutions.

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Local Governments Make EPA's Green Power Partners Top 50 List

by Adrienne DeAngelo Jan 31, 2011

Wind TurbineThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its list of National Top 50 Green Power Partner organizations using the most renewable electricity to help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and protect people’s health.

While much of the buzz has been about Intel and Kohl's -- the top two green power purchasers in the U.S. -- local government made an impressive showing on the list, with the cities of Houston and Dallas continuing to stake out positions in the top 10 with their commitment to wind energy.

The much-publicized Top 50 list includes both public and private purchasers, but the EPA also compiles a Top 20 Local Government Green Power Partners list.

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