Better Buildings in California

Several weeks ago, the Policy Team traveled to Northern California to meet with legislators, non-profits, housing groups and others to talk about how to make our buildings more energy efficient and our schools greener. It was a fun and informative trip, and we are already taking the knowledge we learned and turning it into actions. In Sacramento, we are working with the California Energy Commission (CEC) and many key stakeholders on implementation of the Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings law. Global Green was the lead sponsor of the bill AB 758 in 2009, and worked with the author Assemblymember Skinner to make sure that it passed into law. The law requires all existing buildings in California that fall below current energy efficiency standards to be more energy efficient. It’s a huge task, and implementing it will take massive collaboration between government agencies, utilities, and stakeholders like labor groups, environmental groups, housing groups, and many others. While in Sacramento, we had real discussions with some of these groups and with decision makers on the progress to date and on where we need to go from here.

The next day, we participated in the annual Green California Lobby Day, in which over 50 advocates from environmental groups around the state traveled to Sacramento to talk to legislators about their collective environmental priorities for the year. Green California is a coalition of 70 environmental groups that work together to highlight priority issues and legislation on topics such as clean energy, climate change, oceans, land use, toxics, water and air pollution. Global Green used this opportunity to educate legislators about AB 758, and the need to make sure that any future energy efficiency bills compliment AB 758. We also talked to them about our National Green Schools Makeover competition and ways that legislators could help spread the word to schools in their district. Later that night, we attended the Green California reception and spent additional time talking with environmental champions like Senators Pavely and Simitian and Assemblymember’s Brownley, Butler, Eng and Hayashi, about our work on energy efficiency and their environmental priorities for the year.

Finally, we met with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and a California-based energy contractors association. We know that energy contractors will be a key part of enforcing this law, since they will be the ones responsible for performing the actual retrofits and energy audits, and we wanted to make sure they are part of the discussion from the beginning. Our meeting with the CPUC was also enlightening, as they will be one of the key agencies working to develop and implement the Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings law; the CPUC’s long-term, strategic plan for energy efficiency will be an important document in achieving energy efficiency in California.

It was a tiring three days, but well worth it. We came back to Los Angeles with a new understanding of the tasks that lay ahead, and with even more tools in our toolbox to accomplish them.

Gina Goodhill Rosen