By Tracy Correa
As part of an ongoing effort to help communities become more energy-efficient and green, PG&E is working with 19 cities in Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties to help them learn more about local greenhouse gas emissions.
Funded entirely by PG&E and working closely with the City of Fresno and the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, 19 university-level interns have spent the past six months conducting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) studies for the participating local government agencies.
It is all part of PG&E’s sustainability services to local governments designed to help cities and counties reduce their carbon footprint and meet the goals of AB 32, California’s landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Hundreds of cities being inventoried
The Fresno-area communities join more than 200 others in Northern and Central California that have conducted GHG inventories with the help of funding through PG&E’s Green Communities Program. The benchmarking is designed to help local governments come up with plans for improvement.
On Oct. 18, the Fresno City Council heard a report that provided a look at its GHG emissions inventory.
Joseph Oldham, sustainability manager for the City of Fresno, said the report provided detailed information that the city didn’t have before.
For example, Oldham said the information on commuting looked beyond driving habits and into attitudes about car-pooling in the city of more than 500,000 residents. “It just tells us that we have got a bigger job to do to encourage car-pooling. It is information we will give over to our transit operations,” he said.
The studies will help all 19 Valley communities analyze energy consumption, fuel use and waste production — providing a starting point for new policies and plans to reduce the costs for things such as streetlights, traffic signals, water delivery, transit, landfills and vehicle fleets.
Steven Newvine, senior program manager for PG&E government partnerships, said Fresno is doing well in several areas already, adding: “They were one of the first with [city-operated] natural gas buses.”
So far, about half of the 19 Valley cities have received inventory reports on energy usage – the City of Reedley received its report on Tuesday (Oct. 23).
“The goal is to have all the reports delivered to the local jurisdictions by the end of the year,” said Newvine.
The other area cities participating in the voluntary program are: Chowchilla, Dinuba, Clovis, Coalinga, Firebaugh, Fowler, Huron, Kerman, Kingsburg, Madera, Mendota, Orange Cove, Parlier, San Joaquin, Sanger, Selma and the county of Fresno.
A starting point for change
Jillian Rich, program manager for the Green Communities Program at PG&E, said the inventories provide a good starting point for change.
“Some of the greenhouse gas inventories revealed millions of dollars of fuel and energy costs per year across all departments, which is an important assessment to have in trying to improve the bottom lines of Fresno-area local governments,” she said.
PG&E’s Green Communities Program provides training, assistance and data to help local governments with energy and greenhouse gas reduction. Through the program, PG&E partners with the international organization ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability to help cities and counties develop climate action plans. (ICLEI stands for International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.)
The next step is doing a community inventory, said Oldham. “PG&E has very good data that we can easily import. But the real challenge is getting things like liquid fuel data to answer questions about how much gasoline is actually used by the community,” he said.
Oldham said the information being shared is important because it can affect future planning and spending.
“Long commutes are a result of urban sprawl,” he said. And urban sprawl costs cities more for police and fire because there are more square miles to cover, he added.
“If you don’t know what you’ve got, you don’t know how to reduce it. These inventories give us a starting point,” said Oldham.
Email Tracy Correa at firstname.lastname@example.org.