Solana Beach residents attend workshop to discuss ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions

By Kristina Houck

When State Assembly Bill 32 passed in 2006, the law established a statewide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 emission levels by 2020. To help California reach its goal, Solana Beach residents discussed how the community could do its part at a Climate Action Plan Public Workshop held Aug. 6.

A Climate Action Plan would aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions and conserve energy in order to meet state requirements. Still in the planning stage, consultants from San Diego-based RECON Environmental, Inc. presented four scenarios for the plan, known as CAP, and welcomed input from the public.

The four scenarios proposed a combination of some or all of the following greenhouse gas reduction measures:

– a commercial benchmark program;

– low-income weatherization program;

– residential and commercial efficiency retrofits;

– residential and commercial photovoltaic solar systems;

– solar water heaters;

– energy efficiency education.

All the options would comply with AB 32, also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act. California’s Air Resources Board, the agency responsible for overseeing the law, has recommended that cities set their target at 15 percent below 2005 levels to help meet the state’s goal.

“It’s a way to establish a baseline and have some targets for where we need to be at the city level, regional level and state level,” said Lisa Lind of RECON.

Using ClearPath, a software for inventories and climate action planning in California, RECON looked at the city and overall community’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and mobile sources, residential energy, commercial energy, water and wastewater, and solid waste.

Although Solana Beach has implemented energy-efficient changes, RECON found that the city’s greenhouse gas emissions increased from 589 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2005 to 616 metric tons in 2012. The greenhouse gas emissions of Solana Beach as a whole went up from 136,322 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2005 to 166,012 metric tons in 2012.

The cause of the increase is unknown, said Bill Maddux of RECON, but he speculated it could be because of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station going offline.

Still, he praised Solana Beach for upgrading its public streetlights, retrofitting city facilities, implementing green building incentives, banning plastic bags, purchasing an electric fleet vehicle and more.

“The government is actually doing a very good job of meeting the percentage of reductions and getting down to the targets it needs to get to by itself,” Maddux said. “However, the community’s not.”

He noted that the community faces a variety of challenges in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, one of the biggest being Interstate 5, which runs though Solana Beach. The highway’s emissions account for 49 percent of the total citywide emissions, he said.

Nevertheless, Solana Beach needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 114,510 metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

“I realize it’s incumbent on all of us as individual residents to be as environmentally sensitive as we can,” said resident Carol Childs. “Each of us should do whatever it is we can, but it’s almost funny listening to the setup you described — what the state is putting on us — really, unfairly.”

A number of workshop attendees offered feedback on the four scenarios, with the majority agreeing that none of the options perfectly suited Solana Beach.

“Almost all of the measures that you recommended in any one of your scenarios is doomed to failure,” said Jack Hegenauer, a member of the city’s Clean & Green Committee. “It’s not going to reach the target effectively. You’ve got to focus the city on really doing something meaningful to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rather than just glossing it over with more bicycle lanes and more solar, which is a voluntary kind of program.”

By the end of the meeting, some of the attendees spoke in favor of a fifth scenario that would increase the goal for solar panels on businesses and residences, as well as incorporate Community Choice Aggregation, also called green power purchasing.

Scenario Four proposed annually reducing GHG emissions by reaching out to about 2,500 homes regarding energy education, weatherproofing 10 low-income homes, commercial benchmarking for 100,000 square feet of businesses, commercial retrofitting for 50,000 square feet of businesses, and installing solar panels on a few businesses and 14 homes.

“These are examples of scenarios,” noted City Manager David Ott. “This is the first workshop to take your input to refine scenarios. These are just examples to get discussion going.”

The city’s CAP is being developed as part of the General Plan Update process.

Since May 2012, the city has held a series of public meetings and workshops regarding the General Plan Update, including a CAP workshop in May 2013. The city also issued a community questionnaire in May 2012 and has accepted comments through its website.

The Draft Land Use and Circulation Elements are complete and available for public review on the city’s website. Solana Beach also plans to release its Draft Environmental Impact Report by the end of August. After the 45-day public review period of the document, the city and its consultants will respond to public comments. The final EIR will be presented during a public hearing tentatively set for December.