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City of Pleasanton – Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Pleasanton
Developing a Climate Action Plan

Case Story City of Pleasanton

When the City of Pleasanton recognized a need to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, including greenhouse gases generated in the community, they were aware that the city’s residents had differing views about climate change: some believe it is a real problem, others do not. The city adopted several creative approaches to respond to concerns expressed. 

Community: City of Pleasanton in Alameda County
Population: 70, 285

Summary

City of Pleasanton residents engaged in the development of a Climate Action Plan.When representatives of Pleasanton, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area, recognized a need to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, including greenhouse gases generated in the community, they were aware that the city’s residents had differing views about climate change: some believe it is a real problem, others do not.

They immediately saw a need to adapt their approach to increase community engagement and explore new ways to work with the public.  The city adopted several creative approaches to respond to concerns expressed. The approach and new programs adopted ultimately led to support for the Climate Action Plan from virtually all those who had initially opposed it.

Program Highlights

  • As a way to respond to concerns expressed about the city’s proposed Climate Action Plan by the community, the city reached out to the Bay East Association of Realtors, the Economic Vitality Committee, and the local Chamber of Commerce by attending their Tri-Valley meetings and then hosting workshops for the groups at large. The group suggested that the city take an “educate don’t regulate” approach and provide incentives to the community to voluntarily implement water conservation and energy efficiency measures on their own.
  • The energy efficiency and solar installation rebate programs were extremely successful and exceeded the city’s expectations.  Residents of Pleasanton installed nearly 4 megawatts of solar; as a result of energy efficiency upgrades, residents saved 130,169 kilowatts and 15,647 therms, translating into 168 fewer tons of greenhouse gas emissions produced, in the first year alone.
  • City representatives also sponsored an innovative youth program (called California Youth Energy Services or CYES) that brought together local youth to help residents make their homes energy efficient. The program trained local young people ages 15-22 to visit community members’ homes and provide free green house calls to renters and homeowners. In the first year of the program, the youth retrofited 253 homes in seven weeks.
  • To ensure continued success and public support, Pleasanton has developed resources to expand community relationships. 

Lessons Learned

  • Listen to people in the community and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Read other communities’ Climate Action Plans to learn what others are doing.
  • Don’t lock down your Climate Action Plan; be open to changing it to accommodate community concerns.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story

In response, Pleasanton established rebate programs for both energy efficiency and solar photovoltaic systems to help offset the initial investments required for early adopters.  Both rebate programs were wildly successful, and exceeded the city’s expectations.  According to data from the California Solar Initiative, Pleasanton residents and businesses installed nearly 4 megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems (523 installations) from 2007 to October of 2012.  The California Solar Initiative is the solar rebate program for California consumers that are customers of the investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric.  In addition, as a result of energy efficiency upgrades, residents saved 130,169 kilowatts and 15,647 therms in the first year alone.  This equates to avoiding 168 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Another way the City responded to the concerns of the residents was with an innovative youth program that brought local youth together to help facilitate further engagement with the Climate Action Plan. The program, called California Youth Energy Services, offered paid positions to young people ages 15-22, who were trained as energy specialists and provided free green house calls to renters and homeowners.  Working in teams, they provided and installed free devices (such as compact fluorescent lights, power strips, retractable clothes lines, faucet aerators, and hot water pipe insulation) to improve water conservation and energy efficiency.  This innovative youth engagement and outreach program provided significant direct and indirect benefits.

  • In the first year of the program, the youth retrofited 253 homes in seven weeks.
  • Energy retrofits lowered homeowners’ monthly bills and kept the money local.
  • Youth gained experience in the energy efficiency industry and were exposed to a positive public engagement process.
  • Homeowners were more open-minded about the energy retrofit because they had long-lasting relationships with the community youth coming into their homes.

The California Youth Energy Services program was also a catalyst for a change in attitude by some community members because the local youth were trusted members of the community and in most cases were familiar faces to the residents. The teenagers and young adults also played a valuable role in engaging with their friends and family to show the value, ease, and savings of energy retrofits.

These two public engagement approaches, among others, highlight how the Pleasanton leaders listened to the concerns of the community and worked to transform the Climate Action Plan into something that everyone could support. The rebates were an effective means to allow those who otherwise couldn’t afford capital expenditures, to upgrade their homes.

At the end of the process, virtually all of those who were opposed to the Climate Action Plan initially, endorsed the plan in front of City Council, calling it a truly collaborative effort. The City of Pleasanton attributes this dramatic change of heart to the time and effort they invested in creatively thinking about ways to connect with residents, listening to suggestions, and coming to a place where all parties could agree upon a solution.

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