The City Council will likely adopt a recommendation Tuesday directing the city manager to “vigorously pursue” the transformation of energy sources in public-owned buildings to renewable sources using mostly solar-based technologies.
The recommendation, from Mayor Shirley Dean and Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek, outlines a series of proposed policies that would transform all city-owned buildings into users of renewable energy sources. The new policies would also encourage other public institutions including The Berkeley Unified School District, the Peralta Community College District for Vista College and the University of California to use alternative energy sources in all new construction.
“The technology is here,” Dean said, “and it has the potential to lift us out of this insane energy situation we’re in.”
If adopted, the city manager’s office would look into available grants and begin to identify possible funding within the city budget while considering long-term savings from conversion to renewable energy sources.
The recommendation also asks the city manager to consider the financial implications of offering incentives to business and home owners to convert to renewable resources by extending the use of the Transfer Tax. The Transfer Tax was used to encourage seismic retrofit work at the point of sale.
According to the council report from the offices of Dean and Shriek, a residence can be converted to solar power for approximately $10,000. The report also said there are state energy assistance programs that could reduce the cost to $3,000 to $6,000.
“We’re also convening meetings with bankers to see if we can get them to offer some low-interest loans to help with conversion.” Dean said.
The report said the technology is now available to allow homes to be hooked up to the power grid as well as an independent solar power system. Homeowners can install reverse meters through which they can sell extra energy back to PG&E.
The residential system are capable of seamlessly switching to the solar energy source in case of a blackout, according to the report.
Dean and Shirek said in their report that the energy crisis will likely get worse before it gets better. Even if the state purchases the utilities, it will still have to purchase energy from generators, many located out of state, at the same high prices PG&E and other utility companies pay.
“Those generators mostly rely on natural gas to provide electricity,” Dean said. “Even if they do provide better service there’s still the problem of contaminated air from the energy plants. Solar power represents real freedom.”