Faced with rising global temperatures from burning fossil fuels, the city of Encinitas is working to do its part to cool the climate.
It starts with a plan and measurable goals. Being an environmentally committed city doesn’t mean just talking about it. It requires bold action.
We’re moving forward with an updated Climate Action Plan and exploration of Community Choice Energy, or CCE.
In evaluating how to reduce the amount of carbon created in our city, we have to start with a baseline understanding of how much pollution we produce and where it comes from. We are using 2012 as our baseline year, and here’s what we know. I find these facts fascinating!
• For our roughly 60,000 residents, more than half (54 percent) of the carbon produced here comes from our automobile emissions. This statistic is based on car trips that begin or end in Encinitas, but doesn’t count the carbon that lingers in Encinitas from cars driving through here on the I-5 freeway. Stricter vehicle efficiency standards and electric cars will help push this number down, as will building better infrastructure for biking and walking.
• The second-largest source of Encinitas’ carbon (23 percent) comes from burning gas to produce our electricity. Community Choice Energy addresses this issue.
• The third-highest generator (13 percent) of our local carbon is natural gas, which we use in our homes’ stoves, dryers and water heaters.
• In fourth place (5 percent) is the methane gas that results from food and other waste that we put in our landfills. Diverting food and plant waste to composting or other non-landfill options will reduce this carbon category.
• The fifth carbon category (3 percent) comes from the energy needed to transport our water from the Colorado River or Northern California to arid Southern California. Reducing our water use, getting water locally from sources like Lake Hodges and reusing our treated wastewater, will minimize carbon generated from transporting water.
• At the bottom of the list are “Off-Road Transportation” (2 percent), such as ATVs, leaf blowers, light commercial vehicles and boats, then treating and transporting wastewater at .4 percent.
So when we look at these numbers altogether, we see that each person produces about eight metric tons of carbon per year. State goals and guidelines say that our target should be six metric tons per person by 2020 (only three years away) and two metric tons per person by 2030.
This is achievable! Many of these reductions will happen because of state standards that won’t require much effort from Encinitas’ elected leaders or citizens. For example, the state sets how much carbon emission cars can produce, how much food waste can be deposited in a landfill, or what percentage of an energy utility’s portfolio must come from renewable sources.
But in order to meet our targets here in Encinitas, a portion of our carbon reduction must come from our own decisions. The single most effective change would be to implement a program that allows Encinitas residents to choose where their energy comes from.
Community Choice Energy would give us this freedom. This would be a local, not-for-profit program that acquires energy on behalf of residents, businesses, and government. Several cities and counties, such as Marin, Napa, Contra Costa and Lancaster, have already set up these community choice programs. There are also a number in the pipeline, including Los Angeles, Monterey, San Jose and others.
There are three good reasons for considering switching from SDG&E to Community Choice Energy for the source of the energy itself. The transmission of the energy through the power lines would still be provided by SDG&E because the substantial and needed infrastructure is already in place.
• Lower cost: Residents can lower their electric bill when they buy power in a competitive marketplace.
• Freedom of choice: The utility currently has a monopoly on the profits in the energy market.
• Green commitment: Residents want us to be powered through renewable sources such as solar and wind, not through extractive industries like digging coal out of the ground. There is no other way to achieve 100 percent renewable sourcing of electricity for our residents.
Disappointingly, the county has decided not to pursue Community Choice Energy, so the city of Encinitas and other cities in North County will need to take the lead for our own residents if we’re going to make it happen here. Solana Beach is already ahead of us and Del Mar has committed to further exploration. Both Oceanside and Carlsbad are strong potential partners.
It would be easy to maintain the status quo of using SDG&E to both transport and source our electricity, but we must move forward with more visionary solutions to help cool our warming climate.
We’re aiming for the most cost-effective, nimble, risk-averse and timely approach.
The vision starts with cities like ours. And it starts with leaders willing to roll up their sleeves and slog around in the mud a bit. It will be several years before we can make this happen. But every journey starts with the first step!
Catherine S. Blakespear serves as Encinitas’ elected mayor. Her column in the Coast News comes out on the first Friday of the month. She can be reached at [email protected]