Davis is on the verge of a major breakthrough: it is the first city to take on the goal of carbon neutrality and net-zero energy by the middle of this century. This goal was created as a result of a study initiated by the UC Davis Energy Institute and the Valley Climate Action Center.
The City of Davis won an award for its success in energy efficiency from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The Valley Climate Action used this award to fund the study. Both the city and UC Davis have climate action plans.
“The general definition [of net zero] applies to energy, but it also is being applied to waste and pollution and water and other resources. But the idea is that you have a certain demand for energy and you want to reduce that demand as much as possible and then meet it with clean, renewable sources,” said the director of the study, Gerry Braun of the UC Davis Energy Institute.
UC Davis has already made progress in net-zero energy with the creation of the West Village Project, which is a community based on net-zero energy, according to Braun. It is the first and largest net-zero community in the country. This is what provided the inspiration for the goal of net-zero energy in Davis.
However, it is a very different progress trying to implement this in the city because they are not starting with a blank slate, Braun said. In order to get net-zero they would need to restructure existing energy systems. The study came up with a number of recommendations for the city to reach its goal.
“One of the recommendations was that the university and the city find ways to work together because most of the demand for energy in Davis is residential and our non-residential demand is for the university,” Braun said.
Another recommendation is for the city to conduct surveys to see how households and property owners will be willing to help the city achieve its goals and what steps need to be taken to achieve these goals.
“The most challenging aspect will be working with households to determine what their next best step is for their condition,” Mayor Joe Krovoza said. “For our city goal of net-zero carbon, if we are going to get to that goal, there will have to be a great focus on the residential sector.”
The Mayor also stated that he was organizing a series of meetings with UCD, the city and private-sector experts to look at how to take the recommendations of the net-zero study and implement them in the city. They will also work to find funding for this project and find ways to get citizens involved.
“It’s also very important and very exciting to engage citizens in spreading the word about what they themselves can do, and especially households can do to reduce carbon consumption,” Krovoza said.
Additionally, the City of Davis is competing in the Cool California Cities Challenge, led by the Cool California Initiative. This is a competition in which 10 cities in California compete to reduce their energy consumption. This is one way that Davis is working toward reducing energy consumption and attaining net-zero. Currently, the city’s climate action plan calls for 75 percent of all households to participate in aggressive reduction of their energy use.
Davis has a number of advantages that will aid its goal toward net-zero energy, according to the report. Many of its residents are already environmentally conscious and there are already many private investors that fund solar energy usage. Also, the tradition of bicycling in Davis will help meet the need for lowering transportation energy. Another advantage is that UC Davis is an expert on energy efficiency and renewable energy; evidence of this is the West Village.
“The purpose of the project was to use UC Davis resources to help the City of Davis reach its climate goals,” said Alan Wecker, a second-year MBA student leading the graduate student researchers on the study. “Also to look at the climate action plan, try and come up with a number of methods to help the City of Davis reach it goals and even come up with a few proposals.”
PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.