The cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose will add another plank to their regional green platform on Friday afternoon, when they intend to form a collaborative aimed at achieving a host of tough goals to help combat climate change.
The Bay Area Climate Change Collaborative is meant to coordinate the cities' policies on increasing renewable energy production, decreasing carbon emissions and water use, cutting back on trash going to landfills and making plans to "increase resiliency to the impacts of climate change" – in other words, get ready for ocean levels to rise.
The group also wants to train and employ 20,000 "green collar" workers by 2013, though that's not a limit to the economic benefits the collaborative would like to see coming from its efforts. Right now it includes several companies and regional nonprofit groups, as well as Santa Clara County, but it wants other local governments, nonprofits and companies to join in.
Among the most immediate goals of the group is to coordinate building codes and standards on green building and rooftopsolarinstallations by the end of 2010, said Mike Mielke, environmental programs and policy director for the Silicon Valley Leadership Forum, one of the collaborative's members.
The mayors of the three cities have discussed forming a group like this for months now, and this isn't the first time they've linked up for green-friendly gestures.
In November they hosted a press event for Better Place to announce their support for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup's plans to spend $1 billion in the next four years to build a network of electric car battery charging stations in the region (see Better Place to Charge Up California).
In return, Better Place has signed on as a supporter of the cities' climate change collaborative, as have utility Pacific Gas & Electric, smart meter communications networking provider Silver Spring Networks, biotech company Genentech and Webcor, California's largest building contractor.
How those companies will participate hasn't been fully defined yet, but Mielke said they are offering up to $50,000 apiece to help set up the collaborative's administrative structure.
PG&E and Silver Spring are already partners in the utility's project to bring smart meters to more than 10 million customers by 2011, and PG&E is deeply involved in solar power projects (see PG&E to Build and Own Solar Power Plants).
Webcor is involved in a green building investment fund and has been earning more from building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-qualifying buildings than traditional buildings for the past two years.
Another step the companies could take is to encourage employees to work from home or take shuttles to work, Mielke said -- a workaday way to help meet the collaborative's goal of cutting gasoline consumption in the region by 3 percent by 2013 and by 8 percent by 2018.
Other goals include boosting renewable electricity to 30 percent of the region's consumption by 2013 and 50 percent by 2018, and cut buildings' electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2013 and by 15 percent by 2018.
There's also a plan to reduce water consumption by 15 percent by 2013 and by 20 percent by 2018, and divert a whopping 75 percent of current amounts of trash going to landfills by 2013 and "achieve zero waste" by 2020.
"These are meant to be stretch goals to some extent, and because of the economy, some are more stretch than others," Mielke said. But the cities involved do have initiatives underway to serve as starting points, he said.
San Francisco, for example, offers incentives of $3,000 to $6,000 for residential solar installations and up to $10,000 for commercial installations (see San Francisco Solar Incentive Becomes Official), and has ambitious, if vague, goals to add wave power to its mix of renewable electricity.
The city is also pushing to incorporate electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles into city fleets, which along with plans by Better Place and Coulomb Technologies to bring electric vehicle charging stations to the region could help with the collaborative's goal to make zero and low-emission vehicles 25 percent of their city fleets by 2018 (see Coulomb to Install 40 Stations, Seeks $5M to $8M).
Just how the cities might coordinate their policies on green building and rooftop solar remains to be seen.
San Jose requires all municipal buildings of more than 10,000 square feet to be LEED-certified, for example. But San Francisco's green building standards go further to encompass builders of residential or commercial buildings (see SF Mayor Signs Tough Green-Building Bill).
"We want to create one common reference standard at least for the region," Mielke said. "We don't want to stand in the way of additional methods to push the ball forward."
Perhaps the most long-term goal of the collaborative is to have a plan in place by 2013 on how the region should adapt to the possibility that global warming will lead to a rise in ocean levels.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected that the ocean could rise up to half a meter by century's end, and recent studies have warned that a 1-meter rise or more is within the realm of possibility.
"We want to make sure people are aware of, first of all, and prepared for those contingencies," Mielke said.