County may offer perks to cut energy, water use

An ambitious plan has been introduced to reduce overall San Mateo County energy usage by 25 percent that includes rebates for residents and businesses opting for greener lifestyles.

In the new report by elected officials and energy experts, the plan calls for charging residential water rates based on usage and mandating that cities sell their homemade energy back to utility companies among many other energy-saving measures. It was developed during the last two years after Supervisor Jerry Hill’s suggestion to create a dream team of legislators and energy experts called the Utilities and Sustainability Task Force.

“It’s very pragmatic: save resources, save money, save the environment,” said Richard Napier, executive director of the City/County Association of Governments, which worked with the task force.

The task force claims energy and water usages are reaching critical points that will require extra infrastructure such as additional small power plants and water sources if they are not addressed. The plan aims to reduce energy by 25 percent compared to 2005 and conserve water by 14.8 gallons per capita per day compared to 2001.

The water conservation goal is realistic but the energy ambitions are bold because local energy usage has increased each year since 2002, said Tyler Hammer, Sustainable San Mateo County executive director.

“They certainly have their work cut out for them,” Hammer said. “But at the same time, it has to happen.”

Perhaps the most innovative strategy involves cities turning the tables on energy companies by making their own energy and selling it back to utilities. If they can pass legislation allowing it, cities could sell back their wind- and solar-generated power to utilities to lower other energy bills.

Many of the recommendations would cost a significant amount of money for cities upfront but Napier argued several of the programs would pay for themselves or be cheaper in the long run.

“I think it’s worth it to invest for the future,” Hill said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Eye on environment

Recommendations from the San Mateo County Green Plan:

  • Sell city-created energy back to utility companies
  • Charge water rates based on usage
  • Provide rebates and eliminate permits needed for energy- and water-saving equipment
  • Reduce or eliminate business-license tax for green-certified companies
  • Adopt stricter green-building standards
  • Hold city contests to determine the greenest neighborhoods
  • Support the local green-tech industry
  • Develop water-recycling systems at city facilities
  • Hire new city officials to work only on environmental issues
  • Increase solar power and use it to heat water
  • Develop cogeneration and alternative fuels at city facilities

Source: Utilities and Sustainability Task Force

Bay Area NewsenergyenvironmentLocal

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