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Part 2 of 3 in a series focused on the growing mitigation measures companies must comply with to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved building efficiency.

In part 1 of this series, we looked at how recent climate-spurred legislation is affecting New York City’s commercial building owners. Now we turn our attention to the West Coast, specifically the state of California, to examine what’s at stake for the environment and for those who own and operate large commercial buildings in the Golden State.

Historically, California has been an early adopter of green building standards and global warming initiatives that increased requirements for energy efficiency, water conversation, and recycling of building materials. Last year saw a transformative leap forward when former California Governor Jerry Brown led the approval of the state’s most ambitious climate policies to date. Stating that climate change is “a real and present danger to California and to the people of the world,”1 Brown signed the historic Senate Bill (SB) 100, The 100% Clean Energy Act of 2018, on September 10, 2018 with the goal to make the state’s electricity completely emissions-free by December 31, 2045. On that same day, Brown also signed the accompanying Executive Order (EO) B-55-18 to achieve carbon neutrality.

As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California’s total energy consumption is the second-highest in the nation.2,3 California’s transition away from fossil fuels is a massive undertaking that will require installation of a significant number of additional solar, wind, and other renewable energy (RE) projects, as well as the adoption of new and emerging technologies that improve energy efficiency.

Major climate impacts facing California

As part of a statewide effort to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the California Natural Resources Agency released the “2018 Update to the Safeguarding California Plan,” a catalog of actions and recommendations developed by representatives from 38 agencies across state government. This comprehensive plan seeks to make government efforts transparent and hold agencies accountable for real progress. It specifically calls for institutions to take immediate action against the following current and future climate impacts4:

  1. General climate warming trends across the state
  2. Accelerating sea level rise
  3. More severe storms and extreme flooding events
  4. More intense and frequent heat waves and droughts
  5. Shrinking snowpack and less overall precipitation
  6. Greater riverine flows
  7. More severe and frequent wildfires
  8. Ocean warming, acidification, and marine life hypoxia

GHG emissions broken down

Energy consumed by buildings in California’s commercial and industrial economic sectors is responsible for over 120 million metric tons (almost 28%) of the state’s total GHG emissions.5 When examining energy end-use by sector, 18.7% of California’s energy is consumed by its commercial sector while 23.1% is consumed by its industrial sector3. Given these statistics, commercial buildings become a natural target for both voluntary and mandatory programs for energy reduction.

Emissions by Economic SectorCalifornia Energy Consumption by End-Use

San Francisco: A profile for renewable energy

An April 22, 2019 news release issued by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed announced a plan to transition the city’s private buildings of 50,000 square feet and larger to 100% renewable electricity.6 Noting that almost half of San Francisco’s citywide emissions (44%) come from the commercial sector, the city’s new plan will require its largest commercial buildings to procure 100% renewable electricity from its electricity providers. This will occur on a chronological timeline with buildings over 500,000 square feet being compliant by 2022, buildings over 250,000 square feet being compliant by 2024, and buildings over 50,000 square feet being compliant by 2030. It should be noted that the city has already reduced its GHG emissions by 36% compared to 1990 levels, a trend that mirrors the state’s current target goals.

While it sounds like a daunting task, shifting to 100% renewable energy should be a smooth transition for most commercial businesses, given that the city and Pacific Gas and Electric already offer greenhouse-gas-free electricity options through their respective SuperGreen and SolarChoice products7.

Technological advancements that will make 100% clean electricity possible

As utility companies work quickly to address the challenges of decarbonizing electricity, recent advances in technology will make it easier for grid operators to supply power more cleanly and efficiently. The California State Senate has identified several influencing factors8:

  1. Better weather forecasting, which helps determine how much wind or solar power generation can be utilized at any given time
  2. Declining cost of zero-carbon generation sources like wind and solar
  3. Declining cost of energy storage technologies
  4. Coordination of grid operators in the western U.S. to gain access to larger markets for renewables and other carbon-free resources

Reducing environmental impact now with cloud-based technology

As commercial building owners begin looking at options to comply with California’s latest mandates, one way to immediately begin saving energy and reducing GHG emissions is by implementing an HVAC energy management strategy that includes benchmarking and reporting capabilities.

Encycle offers a unique, cloud-based technology that has proven to achieve a 10-20% reduction in HVAC electrical consumption without affecting occupant comfort. This energy efficiency technology is unlike any other HVAC efficiency offering on the market today. Connecting HVAC rooftop units (RTUs) via existing building control systems, connected thermostats, or IoT platforms, Encycle’s Swarm Logic software synchronizes their activity, thereby enabling them to operate more efficiently as an intelligent set of networked assets. This coordinated approach allows each RTU to respond appropriately to its own dynamically changing cooling requirements, such as outdoor temperature and building occupancy, while apportioning the system’s total energy consumption more logically among the individual RTUs.

It’s a software-enabled HVAC optimization solution that requires little or no capital expenditure, and produces energy savings almost immediately. Following the successful implementation of Swarm Logic, customers across the U.S. have realized significant annual energy savings and reduced their GHG emissions. To learn about Encycle’s customer stories, click here.

For more information on how Encycle can help you reduce your electrical costs and carbon emissions, contact us at +1 855-875-4031.

Contributing author: Chris Hensley, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Encycle Corporation

1 – Rainey, James. “California Aims for 100 % Green Power and Zero Carbon Footprint by 2045.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 10 Sept. 2018, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/california-aims-entirely-green-power-2045-gov-jerry-brown-signs-n908281.

2 – Associated Press. “California Is Now the World’s Fifth-Largest Economy, Surpassing United Kingdom.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2018, www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-california-economy-gdp-20180504-3

3 – “U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” California – State Energy Profile and Energy Estimates – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CA#tabs-2.

4 – United States, Congress, Safeguarding California Plan: 2018 Update, California’s Climate Adaption Strategy ed., California Natural Resources Agency, 0AD.

5 – “California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory – 2018 Edition.” California Air Resources Board, ww3.arb.ca.gov/cc/inventory/data/data.htm.

6 – “Mayor London Breed Announces Plan to Power San Francisco’s Downtown with 100% Renewable Electricity.” 22 Apr. 2019, sfmayor.org/article/mayor-london-breed-announces-plan-power-san-franciscos-downtown-100-%-renewable.

7 – Fracassa, Dominic. “SF’s Big Buildings to Take Big Step in Reducing City’s Emissions.” SFChronicle.com, 22 Apr. 2019, www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/SF-s-big-buildings-to-take-big-step-in-reducing-13784121.php.

8 – “100% Clean Energy (SB100).” California State Senate, California State Senate, 7 Sept. 2017, focus.senate.ca.gov/sb100/faqs.

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