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The Power of Energy Efficiency

A couple of months ago, a flurry of news articles highlighted significant drops in greenhouse gas emissions due to the pandemic. As most aviation, industrial, and commercial activities came screeching to a sudden halt, so did the industries’ emissions. Meanwhile, massive shifts to remote work caused residential energy emissions to increase, but not enough to outweigh the declines in industry. The overall effect was beneficial – a decrease in our 2020 emissions of four percent – but that decline won’t stop the continued overall buildup of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (Source).The goal of reducing GHG emissions is challenging and will require transformative change in the way that we live. Fortunately, we see consistent and aggressive progress throughout jurisdictions all over the Bay Area. Many local agencies are looking to create or update their Climate Action Plans, and globally, countries around the world are committing to new targets to reach net zero by 2050 (Source).

But where do you start in achieving these broad targets? BayREN focuses on uniting the nine Bay Area counties to improve energy efficiency in buildings. In California alone, buildings account for 40% of our emissions. By upgrading fundamental building components such as LEDs, efficient heating and cooling, building insulation, we can scientifically ensure reduced building energy consumption, operating costs, and emissions. As a leader in energy efficiency, California has already saved consumers more than 100 billion in utility bills for over 40 years, and there’s still massive potential for more savings (Source). Energy efficient buildings provide comfort for inhabitants, and increasingly, opportunities to cost-effectively manage times of peak energy use, as highlighted by the new EBCE-OhmConnect partnership. In fact, building energy efficiency upgrades have averted the creation of over 15 power plants because we have been able to do more with less energy (Source). The value of energy efficiency is poised to continue growing as many jurisdictions look to electrification – of transportation, buildings, and other infrastructure – as a means of achieving aggressive climate goals. Efficiency is a key component in cost-effectively managing an increased electrical load caused by the transition off fossil fuels. BayREN’s residential programs provide rebates for upgrades to single family homes through the Home + program, and to multifamily properties through our Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements program. The programs were also some of the first in the State to offer rebates for electrification, which you can learn more about here.

In the fight against climate change, energy efficiency is a powerful and crucial solution, but there are also many other pieces to the puzzle, including renewable energy. Our colleagues in this field are also working to prioritize emissions reductions in the Bay Area. Here are some recent highlights:

● Local Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs) are working to transition our communities to a cleaner more efficient energy supply by committing to providing and investing in renewable energy to the Bay Area community. Last February, CCAs in the Northern and Central Coast formed a new “Joint Powers Authority – California Community Power” to combine their buying power to procure “cost-effective clean energy and reliability resources to continue advancing local and state goals.”

Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, based in Oakland, helps build career pathways for economic equity and climate resilience. Beginning in June, they are launching a project to better understand regional decarbonization labor market demand, workforce issues, and training needs to establish and incentivize industry labor standards.

The County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability (OOS) just opened up a Request for Qualifications to develop 10 case studies highlighting costs and strategies to decarbonize existing single-family homes in San Mateo County. This project will help us better understand how much it actually costs to decarbonize a home. It will also provide a pricing framework that could be helpful to contractors providing electrification services. The RFQ is looking for an electrification consultant and home contractors to provide project quotes.

We are in the midst of a huge shift in the way that we use our energy. In fact, “according to the IEA Efficient World Scenario, currently existing cost-effective technologies are sufficient to double global energy efficiency by 2040” (Source). It is now a matter of implementing these technologies in a way that is equitable, just, and all-encompassing.

Interested in making your home more energy efficient? Contact a BayREN energy advisor to find out what you can do.