Skinner urges Arnold to sign energy-efficiency bill

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and a bevy of energy-efficiency experts gathered in Berkeley this morning to urge the governor’s signature of a bill that would move California toward retrofitting its older buildings to save billions in energy costs.

The bill, AB 758, co-authored by Skinner and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, would direct the California Energy Commission to develop and implement a comprehensive program for bringing the state’s older residential and commercial building stock up to modern energy-efficiency standards in terms of lighting, heating, insulation, water consumption and other parameters. Skinner said she was inspired by a pair of ordinances Berkeley enacted almost 30 years ago, which have resulted in that city having the lowest per-square-foot energy consumption in the state.

About 75 percent of California’s homes and apartments, and more than 5 billion square feet of commercial space, pre-date the modern standards, leaving them as “the largest source of untapped energy savings in the state,” Skinner said at the news conference outside L.J. Kruse Co., a plumbing, heating and cooling company which retrofitted its warehouse to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System’s “platinum standard.”

Taking steps to have other business and home owners do the same could bring California 12 percent of the way toward meeting its carbon emissions reduction goals set out by its landmark global warming law, AB 32, Skinner said. She said it could reduce the state’s energy use by 6,000 megawatts – that’s two million homes’ worth, eliminating the need for a dozen new 5,000-megawatt natural-gas power plants. And, she said, a $1 billion investment – not allocated by this bill – would translate into 6,700 stable, good-paying jobs.

The bill would require the energy commission to undertake its work with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus money already allocated to California, Skinner said. The state Senate passed it on a 27-8 vote Sept. 10, and the Assembly passed it on a 51-27 vote the next day.

More on the bill, and on the governor’s stance, after the jump…

It’s a smart move, Skinner’s expert companions said today. Renowned global warming and renewable energy expert Professor Dan Kammen, from the University of California, Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, said rehabbing old buildings to be more energy efficient “is the area where we get the quickest return on investment and activity.”

“Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do from a purely financial perspective,” said Grant French, the corporate sustainability manager at Swinerton Builders. The future of the residential and commercial real estate market clearly is green, he said, and realizing energy savings while increasing property values just makes good sense.

David Fink, a policy and legislative associate from Global Green USA, agreed these older structures are “the final frontier of wasted energy not being adequately addressed,” and retrofitting them would create “good-paying, stable jobs that are going to be here to stay.”

“We urge the governor to sign this bill – it should be a no-brainer for him,” Fink said.

Ah, but if it were a total no-brainer, they wouldn’t have had to hold the news conference, right?

“The governor seems to be a little reluctant to sign any bills right now,” Skinner said, citing reports that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger might be willing to veto hundreds of bills now sitting on his desk unless the Legislature presents him with a comprehensive solution to the state’s water woes. (Actually, she noted, the retrofitting contemplated by this bill would include water conservation measures, and so would be part of that solution as well.)

Indeed, Mike Naple, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s deputy press secretary, said later Tuesday the governor “has not taken a public position on the bill. He has no formal position and is currently reviewing the bill based on its merits. He has until October 11 to act on the legislation.”

UPDATE @ 10:40 A.M. MONDAY 10/12: The governor has signed this bill into law.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Ralph Hoffmann, Guest Columnist

    Two clever guys saw an ad in a Mississippi Daily Newspaper for a mule for $100. They sent the farmer the money, and he agreed to deliver it, but the next day he drove by to say the mule had died. They asked for their money back, but the farmer told them he’d spent it. So the guys took the dead mule instead.
    The farmer saw the guys a few weeks later, and asked them what they did with the dead mule.
    “We raffled it off in a lottery, selling 500 tickets at $2, making a profit of $898. When the winner found out the mule was dead, we gave him his $2 back.”
    The guys now work for the government, overseeing the
    Bailout Program.
    The moral of the story is: CA needs tighter term limits; One term in office; One term in prison.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    I’d rather have energy policy formed by 100 names chosen at random from the LA phonebook than 100 UC-Berkeley faculty members who are “energy experts.” (Apologies to the late W.F. Buckley, Jr)