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Leading the way for climate action initiatives in Silicon Valley

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With the announcement this morning of the Environmental Protection Agency's new proposal to regulate carbon emissions and reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants, the national conversation shifted to the energy future in the U.S. The EPA proposed a 30% reduction of CO2 by 2030, which is based on emissions levels from 2005, a particularly high emissions year. If 2012 has been selected as the baseline, the 30% reduction by 2030 of CO2 would have had a greater impact. The EPA included energy efficiency, demand response, renewables, conversion of coal plants to natural gas, and performing environmental upgrades to power plants, which all present feasible compliance options to help achieve the set goal.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, many organizations have already made a significant impact by creating outstanding environmental programs. Acterra.org has celebrated the Annual Business Environmental Awards Ceremony, honoring the 2014 award recipients. These coveted awards highlight innovative programs and accomplishments that reduce climate risk and promote toward a sustainable Bay Area.

Today, twenty percent of grid energy in California is from renewable sources, mainly solar and wind. Adam Stern, Acterra’s Executive Director, opened the ceremony saying that it’s not easy being ‘green’ nor taking environmental action, even in the Bay Area, where residents are generally more supportive of a healthy planet. Markets move faster than regulation, Cleantech, energy, and sustainability domains. Stern said that in reality, in order to create a change, we must act first in-spite of difficulties and challenges. Acterra acknowledged the awarded companies for setting an example by focusing their efforts on Climate Change impact mitigation. From defining and finding the metrics to investigate and evaluate current status of carbon impacts in their operations, to figuring out solutions, making the business case for each of them, getting approval and funding, leading up to implementation, while measuring for progress and success. Then, tackling scaling challenges for the solutions that demonstrated the best outcomes.

Through a rigorous qualification, evaluation and selection process, businesses and organizations were chosen in four categories, as follows:

I. Environmental Project

  • Joint Venture Silicon Valley - Climate Prosperity Program - SEEDZ (Smart Energy Enterprise Development Zone) - Large Project
  • RethinkWaste - Environmental Education Center and Tour Program - Medium Project

II. Environmental Innovation

III. Sustainable Built Environment

IV. Acterra Award for Sustainability

Their stories are about economic opportunity, creating jobs and also making a positive environmental impact.

As a Joint Venture Silicon Valley SEEDZ Senior Program Adviser, I’d to describe the climate action programs that Joint Venture Silicon Valley (JVSV) has established in the past few years.

The Climate Prosperity Program unites local governments, businesses, and research and academic institutions in addressing the long term environmental challenges the Bay Area region faces, as well as the nation and the world at large. The program has three major initiatives:

The Renewable Energy Procurement (REP) project which aims to expand and accelerate deployment of solar energy systems at municipal buildings and facilities in the Bay Area. REP addresses the major challenges for the public sector to adopt renewable energy sources. Phase one included public agencies in Santa Clara County and the San Mateo County, with over 11 MW installed, setting the mark for being the nation’s largest public sector to collaborate, procure and implement solar systems to-date. Phase two extends to Alameda County and the East Bay with a planned deployment of solar capacity of 30 MW.

About fifty Silicon Valley municipalities, counties, and other public agencies participate in the JVSV Public Sector Climate Task Force. Members collaborate on climate solutions, for example GHG inventories, reduction of carbon emissions, leveraged procurements, and more.

The SEEDZ initiative - Smart Energy Enterprise Development Zone - focuses on the commercial sector and its goal is to significantly reduce carbon emissions by deploying smart energy solutions on a regional scale. The initiative unites local energy customers, solution providers, municipalities, institutions and utility interests in building the smart energy network of the future – characterized by the highest levels of power reliability, quality, affordability and sustainability. The initiative’s elements include electric transportation infrastructure, distributed generation, energy storage technologies, and integrated building systems. The ‘zone’ is centered around north Mountain View, Moffett Field and Sunnyvale. Leading silicon Valley enterprises are participating in the various projects, helping improve climate resiliency and economic sustainability of their businesses and the geographic area over-all. This initiative, that attracts participating commercial and mainly large organizations, will serve as a model for similar large-scale project throughout California and beyond.

The Business Environmental Awards was founded in 1990 and has recognized over 170 businesses and organizations for their environmental leadership. The hosting company, Intuit, has announced at the ceremony of their goal to become carbon neural in 2015!

For more information, check Intuit’s website at:

Social Responsibility-Sustainability and environmental impact

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

1. Acterra.org is an environmental non-profit serving the Silicon Valley. Acterra provides solution-oriented programs, delivering tangible, hands-on activities in support of the environment. Through volunteer opportunities for adults and youth, people have the opportunity to participate in a broad range of programs, from habitat restoration to carbon reduction and more. Acterra teaches people how to become effective environmental change agents in their communities, neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. In addition to empowering thousands of people in Silicon Valley, the organization’s programs serve as models that others can emulate elsewhere.

Acterra offers many resources in the effort to bring people and environmental health together: http://acterra.org/findanswers/index.html

Check the various programs here: http://acterra.org/programs/index.html

2. EPA's carbon pollution standards - Existing power plants - June 2, 2014.

For the EPA's announcement click here.

For the draft of the proposed rule click here.

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