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City of Riverside – Green Building Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Green Building

In addition to aggressively promoting energy and water efficiency, the goals of Riverside’s municipal electric and water utilities are to obtain 33 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and to reduce potable water usage by 15 percent by 2025.

Since 1999, energy savings in Riverside reflect greenhouse gas emission reductions equivalent to removing over 23,500 cars from the road.

Community:Riverside (Riverside County)

Population: 300,000


Riverside has a variety of green building programs, including the Riverside Green Builder program which offers new home builders expedited processing and utility meter approval. In addition, rebates are available through the city’s municipal electric and water utilities for energy and water efficiency retrofits on existing residential and commercial buildings.

Program Highlights

  • Faster plan, check, and building inspections for new home builders that comply with Riverside Green Builder program.
  • Financial rebates for existing homes that undertake energy and water conservation upgrades.
  • Active outreach through utility bills and web site to residents and property owners to promote rebates offering.
  • Active program to encourage installation of solar photovoltaic.

Lessons Learned

  • Talk to other cities and counties to learn what’s worked there. If you find a program you like, seek more information from the program implementers. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Riverside operates its own municipal electric and water utilities and actively embraces both energy and water conservation practices. It offers a wide range of utility rebates in tandem with those offered by the state and federal governments. Although Riverside’s programs are voluntary, because the financial incentives are significant, there is widespread interest among the residents in the city’s rebate programs. This has resulted in reductions in energy and water use.

Energy and Water Conservation Programs

In 2007, Riverside adopted the voluntary Riverside Green Builder program. The framework was developed jointly by the city and the Riverside Building Association and is based upon the California Green Building code. The city allows both production builders and those building individual homes to utilize the Riverside Green Builder program standards. Those that do are entitled to an expedited plan check and their requests for electric and water meter approval are given priority.

The city also provides, through the Riverside Public Utilities, energy and water conservation measures and rebates for existing residential and commercial utility customers. Funds for these rebates come from Public Benefits and the Water Reclamation Surcharge collected by Riverside. The city actively promotes conservation measures and provides a website with information on how to conserve energy and water and take advantage of city, state and federal financial incentives and rebates.

Riverside’s efforts have resulted in widespread participation by the community. Since 2001, the city has issued $2.8 million in rebates, including $1.3 million alone for air conditioning efficiency upgrades. Its most popular rebate program is the shade tree program. The city offers a $25 rebate for each tree planted; since 2001, over 68,000 trees have been planted.

Riverside also offers rebates for solar photovoltaic installations on residential and commercial buildings. The $3 per watt rebate (not to exceed 50 percent of the project cost) has generated over 1,000 kilowatts daily by rooftop solar electricity systems.

Green Riverside Action Plan

Riverside completed a greenhouse gas inventory for municipal operations and is finalizing a communitywide inventory, scheduled for completion by the end of 2009. The city has also prepared a Green Action Plan, involving all departmental resources, from the Utility and Public Works departments to the General Services and Community Development Departments. Each department is responsible for meeting measurable goals and reporting back to the city council on a regular basis. 

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.

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