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Assembly reviews Climate Action Plan

Posted: August 1, 2011 - 9:52pm

The developing Climate Action Plan will have more than 100 action items as ways for homeowners, business owners and government to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases.

The City and Borough of Juneau’s Assembly Committee of the Whole heard an update on how the plan is shaping up and was asked for input if it was heading in the direction Assembly members approved of. Overall, sentiments on the report were positive, but were also looking for more information to be developed in the plan.

Assemblymen David Stone, Malcolm Menzies, Peter Freer and Mayor Bruce Botelho were absent.

Amy Skilbred, with Skilbred Consulting, and Zoe Morrison, of Sheinberg Associates, presented the draft plan Monday night.

The Assembly set a goal in 2007 to have a community-wide reduction in energy consumption of 20 percent by 2012, and a 1 percent reduction of city government energy consumption. It also called for a Climate Action Plan, which follows International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives — Local Governments for Sustainability standards. The plan also has 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-year milestone marks to review the Climate Action Plan and assess whether the targets and goals are reasonable.

The three objectives of the plan include using less energy, making sure what’s used goes further, and a reduction in greenhouse emissions.

Skilbred said internationally to locally, governments and private businesses have been honing in on energy efficiency.

Skilbred said recently the national automakers made an agreement to reduce emissions and decrease consumption. Locally, Alaskan Brewing Company, cruise ships and Greens Creek Mine are striving to cut emissions and consumption and Alaska Housing Finance Commission is offering a home energy rebate program.

Assemblyman Merrill Sanford pointed out the introduction of the plan focuses on emissions and consumption reduction. However he said not all Assembly members agreed to forming a plan for those reasons. He said some were interested because of the fluctuating cost of fuel oil and a desire to decrease costs.

Skilbred said there has been a 13 percent reduction citywide in energy consumption from 2007 to 2010. There has been a 10 percent reduction emissions in that time period. She said the reductions may not be maintained for 2011 because Greens Creek Mine is on interruptible hydroelectric power and has been running on diesel already longer than it had in 2010. She said Kensington also will have its first full year of energy consumption coming up and that also will have an impact.

The consultants also showed a graph showing mostly decreases in different user groups of energy consumption. The school buildings saw an increase and Capital Transit was about flat.

Skilbred said the reason school consumption was up is because of the addition of the new high school. She said if that second building hadn’t been built, the district would have seen a net decrease because of its energy reduction plan.

Assemblywoman Ruth Danner was concerned with the report using 2007 as a constant baseline because the city will likely be managing new buildings.

Skilbred said the emissions and consumption will also go down if the Auke Bay Elementary School bond passes. She and Morrison pointed out that as the city and school re-evaluate existing buildings and make energy-efficient improvements there will still be a downward trend.

The Assembly also asked how the group picked a target of a 25 percent reduction over the next 20 years. Skilbred and Morrison said they spoke with other communities that were implementing these kinds of plans and adjusted it for what is reasonable for Juneau. That adjustment included Alaska Department of Labor population estimates.

Morrison talked about how to get to that 25 percent, and said that there are two sectors that use the most energy — transportation and buildings. Transportation’s goal is currently set at a 14 percent reduction in consumption and 8 percent for buildings. The remaining sectors are grouped together and 3 percent is expected to come out of them.

Out of the more than 100 action areas the plan will suggest, they’ve narrowed to a top 10:

• Work with federal and state agencies to further decrease emissions and consumption.

• Increase energy efficiencies for city buildings and vehicles.

• Support increased energy efficiency for new and existing residential buildings.

• Support increased energy efficiency for new and existing commercial buildings.

• Implement a non-motorized transportation plan.

• Implement a Capital Transit development plan.

• Implement a Willoughby District plan

• Outreach and education, both internal and public.

• Develop an energy plan for Juneau.

• Create sustainability fund and staffing resources.

“It seems to me, the overall plan is designed to help us be healthier economically, environmentally and personally,” Danner said. “Of course, I’m wondering what else is in it for us? ... If we meet our target, is there some other benefit, are we qualified for other grants, qualified for bragging rights?”
Skilbred said they would be qualified for “bragging rights” but it also may help the city’s position in getting more hydro plants approved. Sanford said there are four or five hydro projects in the planning phase right now.

“Some people in town would like to see Juneau as the demonstration city to implement new technology,” Skilbred said. “The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority has received several million dollars in training for retrofitting houses. It’s not just energy efficiency, there’s an economic and environmental part to it. I think all that might be able to help Juneau to grow.”

Sanford asked for more details as the plan is further developed on the costs of implementing these energy-efficient standards.

“Are we going to spend a billion to save a billion?” he asked.

Assemblywoman Karen Crane said they can’t just look at it when they’ve reached their 20 percent or 25 percent goal that they’re done.

She also said the plan should be considered a fluid document as it comes to pass — that action items recommended in the plan are just that, recommendations.

“Some of the recommendations may be things members want to do and others don’t,” she said. “It’s going to be a decision-by-decision basis to go forward. Is it economical, does it make sense, can we do it?”

Crane said one example is the group’s recommendation to change building codes to encourage energy efficiency. She said that kind of change would require further study and a cost-benefit-analysis. Most of the items on the list likely would require a cost-benefit analysis to move forward.

Skilbred said in order for them to get better estimates on costs it would require almost another study as it would require a lifecycle-cost analysis of the buildings. The consultants do plan to get some cost estimates, but narrower scopes may not come with this plan.

City Manager Rod Swope said the city has been doing analyzing some of that for its highest use facilities like waste-water treatment, Treadwell Arena and Centennial Hall. But it is also watching the use and efficiency to see if the estimates they received from another consultant are working out.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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