Solana Beach council checks city’s progress on energy-saving roadmap

The Solana Beach City Council recently got a closer look at how the city is working toward sustainability when staff presented Solana Beach’s Energy Roadmap during the June 10 meeting.

The roadmap, which identifies ways to save energy in government operations and in the community, stems from 2008, when Solana Beach was selected as one of only three cities to participate in the Sustainable Region pilot program through SANDAG.

“The city was picked largely because it demonstrated the willingness and ability to implement energy efficiency and conservation programs through its many early successes,” said Dan King, assistant to the city manager.

Over the past year, staff from Solana Beach, SANDAG and SDG&E have updated the city’s 2008 Sustainable Region report to include activities and programs the city has developed and implemented, as well as identifying additional energy and cost-saving programs that may benefit the city, resulting in the roadmap.

The roadmap recognized steps Solana Beach has already taken to become a more sustainable city.

Since becoming a pilot city of the Sustainable Region Program in 2008 and partnering with Chevron Energy Solutions Company in 2011, the city has activated a number of recommendations from both partnerships.

In 2012, Solana Beach conducted an energy audit of city facilities in partnership with Chevron ESCO. The report estimated that by switching all city-owned streetlights to LED lights, the city would save approximately $33,000 on its annual utility bill.

Soon after, Solana Beach retrofitted all 527 city-owned streetlights to a more energy-efficient LED technology and became the first city in San Diego County to use citywide LED retrofits to reduce energy and cut costs. According to the Energy Roadmap audit, the city has saved approximately $71,672 by changing its streetlights.

The energy audit also assessed city sites for Energy Star Certification by benchmarking energy use to reveal how a building’s energy consumption compares with similar buildings, based on a national average.

The energy audit “determined that City Hall is a highly efficient building, scoring 91 out of 100 possible points,” said Sarah Strand of SANDAG. “This rating really reflects the impact of the energy-efficiency improvements that have been made to the now high-performing facility. As a result of the audit, we were able to recognize these improvements by helping City Hall attain an Energy Star Certification.”

Through the Energy Roadmap program, the city will receive an Energy Star plaque.

Besides carrying out energy efficiency upgrades, the city has added an electronic vehicle to its fleet and installed EV charging stations at City Hall, among other accomplishments.

The roadmap also identified other ways the city could save energy and money.

After an energy audit of city facilities, staff and consultants identified about $9,000 in potential savings through utility rate changes at the fire station and the marine safety building. Simple utility rate changes would annually save about $8,100 at the fire station and $900 at the marine safety building.

An analysis was also made to determine whether solar photovoltaic systems should be installed at six city sites: City Hall, the marine safety building, fire department, La Colonia Community Center, the public works yard and Fletcher Cove Community Center. The Fletcher Cove center showed the most potential for supporting such a system.

If the city were to buy PV systems for each of the six sites, the simple payback would be approximately 14.4 years. However, the study noted that rooftop space is limited at the sites, so most of the systems would have to be installed on the ground or in a parking lot, which is more costly. Therefore, the study did not recommend a direct investment by the city because of high costs, but noted financing options are available.

In related business, the council unanimously voted to participate in and work toward achieving an award for its sustainability efforts. Participating in the program is included in the roadmap.

The Institute for Local Government’s Beacon Award: Local Leadership Toward Solving Climate Change program recognizes cities and counties that: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use; adopt policies and programs that address climate change; and promote sustainability. The Institute for Local Government is a nonprofit research and education affiliate of the League of California Cities and the California Association of Counties.

“Participating in the Beacon Award program will increase the city of Solana Beach’s visibility within the region and state,” King said. “This is an opportunity for the city to showcase its existing efforts, promote sustainability and save energy while working toward one of the three award levels.”

To participate in the Beacon Award, cities and counties must complete an application and prepare or commit to prepare a baseline greenhouse gas emissions inventory and climate action plan. They must also show compliance with the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, and achieve specified measurable greenhouse gas reductions and energy savings, among other requirements.

With the council’s approval, the city will now work toward achieving one or more of the three award levels — silver, gold or platinum. There is no deadline or timeline for the awards, as they are given on an ongoing basis.

Participants receive special recognition at League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties events, are highlighted on the Beacon Award website and receive certificates and materials to display at city facilities.

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