By Katie Davis
Back in 2017 when allies and I were meeting with each of the Santa Barbara and Goleta City Council Members as part of Sierra Club’s “Clean Energy for All” campaign and urging them to set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030, we got some push back. Would such an ambitious target be achievable? Would it be affordable? How would we do it?
Nevertheless, those cities did pass 100% renewable energy goals. Fast forward to 2022 and the path is clear. All of Santa Barbara County and its cities are now part of community choice programs that enable them to procure renewable energy for our region. Because cities like Goleta had set goals of 100% renewable energy when they joined Central Coast Community Energy, the entire utility has adopted that goal. That means our electric utility is buying renewable energy for all five counties it serves from here to Monterey.
Examples of renewable energy projects enabled and procured by Central Coast Community Energy include the first geothermal plant to be built in California in the last 30 years. The Casa Diablo IV project started commercial operation on July 14 and provides 30 MW of electricity, enough to power 22,000 homes and offset 160,000 tons of CO2 annually. As a geothermal plant, it provides the benefit of baseload production, meaning it can produce energy in all hours of the day.
The following week, on July 21 was the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Mountain View Wind Project which was completed six months ahead of schedule and will provide enough wind-generated electricity to power 40,000 Homes.
The week after those projects, on July 28, the City of Goleta had a ribbon-cutting for their very own solar project. The Monarch 1 project at Goleta City Hall will generate enough solar power on site to meet nearly 100% of City Hall’s energy needs. It is wired to be micro-grid ready so battery storage could be added and pre-wired for six electric vehicle charging stations to be added later. It also provides a shade structure in the parking lot, a strategy also being implemented at numerous Santa Barbara School District schools where solar arrays are also being installed in parking lots this summer.
In addition to investing in new renewable energy projects, Central Coast Community Energy offers incentives for switching to electric. The recently launched, “Electrify Your Home Program” is the first local program of its kind to target existing buildings and provides contractors with cash incentives for switching gas-powered water heaters and HVAC equipment to all-electric versions. The program is integrated with TECH Clean California, a statewide initiative to transition buildings and households away from fossil fuels to help meet the state’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. Contractors enrolled in the TECH program will be able to apply for rebates via one application and receive one check – generating savings that can be passed on to consumers.
The biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions on the Central Coast are transportation and buildings, which rely on natural gas (methane) to power water and space heaters, stovetops, and more. By working to procure 100% renewable electricity and by helping to electrify those sectors, we can reduce both greenhouse gas emissions, and the air pollution that causes roughly 9000 premature deaths in California annually. Central Coast Community Energy committed $2.8 million in rebates for electric vehicles and chargers and $1.6 million for building electrification this year.
Learn more about building electrification at http://www.switchison.org
Goleta celebrates its new solar project at City Hall.