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Green Is in!

by Susannah Kopecky, published

California is known for leading the nation in many ventures, trends and movements, and 2009 is no different. In areas all across California, local and state governments are supporting "greening" measures to help the environment and raise accountability. Going hand-in-hand with the loftier goal of cleaning house, proverbially, comes lucrative spending contracts to update infrastructure. In Los Angeles alone, SCE and the LADWP are working with Mayor Villaraigosa, to get on the track to a goal of 20 percent renewable energy use in LA within only a handful of years.

During the last week of January, Governor Schwarzenegger voiced his support for tougher environmental laws, asking for support from the federal government. It may soon come to be that the more stringent California environmental laws will be incorporated into federal law as well. The governor and mayors across California have encouraged updates to outdated energy and power infrastructure, with more earth-friendly planning in mind. Mayor Villaraigosa started the Green LA project less than two years ago, the goal of which is to get the city of Los Angeles using renewable energy for at least 35 percent of all energy use by 2020, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in LA. Beyond the pro-environmental implications of lowered greenhouse gas levels, the Green LA initiative is very much pro-alternative energy, and includes the Pine Tree Wind Farm, which is exactly what it sounds like: a solar energy project.

A huge energy supplier in Southern California, Southern California Edison may soon be the face of alternative energy use in LA. Edison has been investing in renewable energy research and efficient power use. According to SCE, the major supplier already prides itself on being the largest consumer of renewable energy, in the entire USA, including wind power, biomass and solar, among other sources. SCE is also working on what it describes as the most expansive wind power harnessing project, the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. Heartening also is the news that about $15 million may be invested by the company in its power grids, to make the grids "greener and smarter" for the more than 10 million customers SCE provides power for.

Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, another major power player in LA, is engaging in very pro-green projects, including Green Power for Green LA, which is also a project that encourages alternative energy use. Some of the new forms of suggested energy include water power, sun power and wind power. SCE just recently also constructed solar power "rooftop installation," the completion of which was celebrated with a visit by the governor himself (a Southern California resident, when not in Sacramento.) Like SCE, the LADWP is interested in harnessing the power of the wind to power LA home.

San Francisco is known as a city nearly always on the cutting-edge of environmental programs, and 2009 doesn't appear to prove any different. Already, the city may pride itself on one of the best public transportation systems in California, in addition to the many ambitious local programs that have been set in place to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the city is encouraging residents to "Go Solar." GoSolarSF (in cooperation with the California Solar Initiative) is an alternative energy program meant to "encourage more installations of solar power in San Francisco." Through this program, businesses and homeowners who agree to switch to solar power (at their own residences) residents can get rebates through the city, state and federal funds to "pay half the cost or more of a solar power system installed in San Francisco," running up to $4,000 for private homeowners and $10,000 for businesses.

Solar photovoltaic power is another option for San Francisco residents. According to the city of San Francisco, the Moscone Center provides more than 2,000kW of solar power to the city. Another step the San Francisco city government is taking to ensure 21st century sustainability is the Water System Improvement Program, through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The aging water system of SF is indeed in need of repair. The city is taking this opportunity both to update an outmoded system, and make it more sustainable in the process.

In 2006, the governor created the Million Solar Roofs Plan (aka the California Solar Initiative), to provide more clean energy "and reduce the output of greenhouse gages by three million tons." $3.3 billion will be put towards this pro-solar energy plan, with the hopes of construction 1,000,000 rooftop solar installations within the next decade. In the past, the governor has also encouraged the building of a "Hydrogen Highway," better water management and efforts to lower our "carbon footprints." In 2006, the governor also oversaw the awarding of $1,000,000 to the University of California, Davis to "create the nation's first university-based Center on Energy Efficiency," with the hoped-for result of creating future jobs and business incentives to work in California.

It certainly is nice to see state and local officials encouraging responsible energy use and forward-thinking energy measures. Let's just hope that the money is spent reasonably, responsibly and yields some great results.

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