Santa Rosa emissions cuts promises money savings

Santa Rosa must spend millions to achieve local and state mandated greenhouse gas emissions targets, but if managed properly the cost savings from lower energy use should create a net long-term savings for City Hall.

That's the conclusion of a report outlining ways Santa Rosa can "cost-effectively and efficiently" reduce greenhouse gas emissions from city operations.

"In a nutshell, energy efficiency pays for itself," said Tim Holmes, an energy consultant who worked on the city's Municipal Climate Action Plan.

The plan, released this month, is open for public comment until June 30.

It explains that city government operations, from lighting streets to running buses to treating wastewater, make up about 2 percent of the 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents produced by the community annually.

City Council members pledged in 2005 to reduce emissions from city operations to 20 percent below 2000 levels by 2010, an aggressive goal did not meet. By 2010, a combination of green energy projects and staff reductions due to the recession had reduced municipal emissions to about 27,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, or 5 percent below 2000 levels.

But the city must squeeze an additional 4,335 metric tons from its annual operations to meet the goal, and far more to meet state goals of an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

So the city reviewed more than 100 possible emission reducing projects, analyzed them for cost-effectiveness, and arranged them in order of priority. The highest priority was given to projects in progress and expected to have a high return on investment.

These "no brainers" including upgrading to more efficient methane cogeneration system at the city's wastewater treatment plant and replacing streetlights with more efficient models, Holmes said.

Such projects would cost about $1.2 million, but would pay for themselves in two years, and over 20 years could save the city $12 million, according to the report.

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