Special Edition: The Net Zero Carbon Study Tour
The Net Zero Carbon Study Tour
What a story, and what a tour! This special issue is a travelogue of a net zero carbon study tour arranged by EcoKR for the City of Gumi, South Korea. EcoMotion planned the trip.
Gumi has a population of 400,000 that swells during business hours. Some 200,000 residents from surrounding areas commute to the industrial center. Gumi is centrally located in Korea and about 2.5 hours from Seoul, along rail lines and highways. Years ago, Gumi on the Nakdong River was known for textile manufacturing. The Korean delegation gave ties and scarves made there as gifts.
Gumi is known for industrial manufacturing. It is proud of being the home of Korea’s former President Park Chung Hee. During his presidency, Gumi was developed as a high-tech center. Today, almost all Samsung cell phones and LG flat screen TVs are made there. LED manufacturing is a clean tech priority.
We’re visiting five cities, two utilities, a national laboratory, and two pioneering NGOs: TreePeople and the Climate Registry. A half-dozen site visits are planned, from green buildings to wind farms and solar systems. We begin in San Francisco with introductions and seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s great expectation.
San Francisco’s Leadership
Cal Broomhead, on behalf of the City of San Francisco, welcomes the group and shares tales of greening San Francisco. He recounts banning styrofoam “take-out boxes;” then similar restrictions on plastic bags, and using volunteers on patrol. The City requires LEED Silver construction for all new commercial construction, green points for residential.
The genesis of San Francisco’s electric trolleybuses was of interest. Also known as “trams,” the trolleys in San Francisco have overhead wires. Of San Francisco’s 82 lines – which operate either buses (diesel and hybrids), trolley buses, streetcars, light rail, and cable cars – there are 17 trolleybus lines which are serviced by 300 zero-emission trolleybuses.
The trolleys were introduced in 1941 and are clean, quiet, smooth, and carbon neutral, utilizing hydroelectricity from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, San Francisco’s primary water source. Trolleys, confined to set routes, may be eclipsed by “free-range” electric buses. China has just introduced an electric bus fleet in Shanghai. Mayor Gavin Newsom announced in late 2007 that all diesel buses in San Francisco will be converted to biodiesel.
Oakland’s Top Ten Rankings
Oakland has been ranked one of America’s top ten greenest cities eight times in the past ten years. We see “the” oak tree outside of City Hall. Oakland has the most solar capacity of any major urban area around the Bay, and it’s been heavily involved with storm water management, brownfield site restoration, and climate protection. Recent actions range from AB 811 financing to food scraps recycling.
Susan Katchee has quite a team focused on sustainability. Scott Wentworth, Garrett Fitzgerald, Peter Slote, and Steve Lautze tell us about their efforts with energy management, waste mitigation, and clean tech incubation. Miguel Bustos underscores the point that vibrant international trade is key to Oakland’s new prosperity.
Stunned by our first site visit: Stop Waste is a non-profit with the mission of “reducing waste in Alameda County.” Its home is a LEED Platinum EB facility in Oakland made largely of recycled materials. Karen Kho shows us around the busy center. Natural lighting filters down the central shaft. Artwork is all about trash. Lots of meetings are in progress.
A short walk to the Boathouse on Lake Merritt is welcome after the shuttle bus ride. Lyle Oehler shows us around. The Boathouse was originally built in 1909 as a fire pumping station after fires caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake ravaged had the city. Oakland wanted to be able to tap Lake Merritt for fire suppression if need be.
Lyle is a project manager for the City of Oakland; he managed this building’s recent renovation to LEED Gold standards. Today, the Boathouse services multiple purposes, including its age-old role as a boat house. It also houses two restaurants and 60-foot bar with a wide-angle view.
Overlooking the Bay
It’s been several years since I visited “LBL,” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ashok Gadgil is the Acting Director of the Environmental energy Technologies Division. It has a $75 million a year budget. He provided a historical context: Many of America’s brightest minds jumped into the energy field in the 1970s after the oil crises. There had to be alternatives to be held hostage to foreign oil. At that time, LBL’s building sciences group, under the direction of Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld, began to take on in-efficiency head-on. Art had been a nuclear physicist, Enrico Fermi’s last student.
In the 1970s, Art and several colleagues began a thirty-year focus on energy efficiency. Building and appliance standards were created; advanced technologies – like the compact fluorescent lamp – were developed at the lab. While many leading scientists fled the conservation field as oil prices dropped again in the 1980s, LBL maintained its focus and has become known as a world-wide leader in energy efficiency. Thanks to Lynne Price, Yining Qin, and Maithili Iyer, we learn about current works in China and India, and we explore means for collaboration with Gumi City.
Dinner and we are joined by colorful friends! Former CPUC Commissioner Geoffrey Brown and Carol Brown add considerably to our Korean, Canadian, Chinese, American mix and regale the group with stories of California politics and “Cousin Jerry.” The Koreans are interested in how our utilities can sell less and profit more! What a day we have had.
San Jose’s High Tech Advantage
Day 2 starts at Adobe Systems in San Jose, the corporate headquarters of the renowned software developer. Adobe’s West Tower was the first LEED Platinum EB facility in the world, followed shortly thereafter by the other two towers in the Adobe facility. Going platinum in West Tower cost $1.4 million gross, minus $389, 000 in rebates, and the results are dramatic including savings of electricity 35%, natural gas 41%, water 22%, and exterior water 76%. The towers have an 85% waste diversion rate. The average payback: an astounding 9.5 months! New 1.2 kW “wind spires” on site steal the show.
Randy Knox is clearly proud and highly respected. He runs Adobe’s global facilities and is responsible for 85 sites around the world. He shows us Adobe’s cooling towers and super high efficiency chillers. In the office, workers suggested setting Adobe’s printers worldwide to a default of double-sided copying. The company supports water filters in break rooms so that plastic bottles are minimized. Even individually wrapped creamers for coffee are replaced with larger bottles, eliminating waste and cutting costs. Triple-glazed windows dampen flight noise; recycled carpets.
Ted Ludwick works on site. He explains that air economizers draw in outside air when temperatures permit, extensively filtered so that indoor air is cleaner than outside air. The delegation is impressed by the IBIS energy management system. Operators can control color-coded temperatures, lighting levels, etc. from a central location, and even remotely during off hours. A performance-based management contract with Cushman Wakefield ties 20% of its fees to successfully meeting predetermined parameters.
Welcome to City Hall, says Joe Hedges. He explains that San Jose exports $3 billion a year to Korea, the largest export destination and the basis of a strong relationship.
Mayor Chuck Reed spends precious time welcoming Mayor Nam and the delegation. He advocates business-to-business relations, and he’s happy to share his progress with clean tech with Gumi going forward. San Jose has an ambitious ten-point greening strategy approved by Council. Its 15-year “Green Vision” includes 25,000 new clean tech jobs and cutting per capita energy intensity by 50%.
Architect John Hartman is proud to show us the brand-new Roosevelt Community Center. One of its key green features is managing storm water. The design includes collection of rainwater, using sloped roofs and sidewalks, and driveways, and then retention on site for 24 hours. The water is filtered before it heads to the nearby stream, then the Bay, and ocean. All the building’s construction materials were derived within a 500-mile radius.
America’s Greenest Utility
I guess we’re easy to spot, an American tour guide and 11 Koreans! Susan Randall Nelson welcomes us in the lobby and makes us feel at home. She escorts us to the comfort of the 32nd floor, far above the street below and the cold, wet, dark afternoon.
PG&E was recently named America’s greenest utility by Newsweek. The visit opened the Koreans’ eyes to the effective role of a utility in greening its customers. It’s a fine partnership, delicate and intricate and full of challenges.
Brian Cherry welcomes the Mayor and delegation with a formal letter. He heads up the company’s intergovernmental and regulatory relations with class. He understands and expresses the value to PG&E reaching out to foreign partners.
The data is stunning: Ian Foraker explains that California has decoupled sales and utility profits, cutting average energy intensity by 50% since 1974. While utility sales have dropped, profits have been consistent thanks to “performance-based ratemaking” or PBRM. The result: California has avoided the need to build 24 power plants, generating $24 billion in consumer savings. And now smart grids.
Lynne Galal presents PG&E’s efforts with green communities, fostering local government innovation, and deep savings through neighborhood initiatives. Anna LaRue describes PG&E’s new net zero carbon program. It is designed to implement the CPUC Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, or at least some of its “big and bold steps.” The Plan calls on Californians to take a leadership role in net zero carbon buildings, both residential and commercial. Angela Lott explains Climate Smart, a program that gives residential and commercial customers the opportunity to pay a tax deductible surcharge on their bills which goes into a climate fund that supports green projects to offset emissions. To date approximately 30,000 customers have signed up for this innovative opportunity to cut emissions. (We learn later that the Climate Reserve manages its offsets.)
The Little Desert City that Did
Let’s get this backwards: Before we left Palm Desert, Mayor Nam had an idea of how he might finance an AB 811 program. He was beyond “whether” and clearly in the “how” mode!
We wake up in San Francisco taxis to the airport; United Flight #2334 headed for LAX; then microbus east to Palm Desert. We stop in the desert amidst the wind turbines. Lots of photos, muddy feet, a windswept impression of the San Gorgonio Pass. We discuss California’s three major wind farms and the temperature differentials between coastal cool and desert hot air rising.
The City Hall is specially opened to welcome the delegation. A DVD showcases Gumi’s industrial prowess. This city in the North Gyeongsanbuk-do (province) is home to the Gumi National Industrial Complex, reportedly “leading the country in high-tech production.”
Yet Gumi wants to learn from Palm Desert. In particular, the Mayor and his colleagues are keen on exploring the Energy Independence Program, the property tax assessment program that Palm Desert pioneered. They are eager to meet Councilmember Jim Ferguson who promoted AB 811 in the California legislature, impressed by the how a city of 50,000 can influence legislation to provide a benefit to all 37 million Californians, and ultimately to all 300 million Americans.
Palm Desert’s Council prepared a Proclamation supports Gumi’s Green Vision. Mayor Cindy Finnerty and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ferguson present the delegation with greetings and perspective. Jim Ferguson provides an inspiring tale of taking action on energy.
Mayor Nam is both deeply appreciative and pleased. He exchanges greetings and his vision for Gumi. Not long ago, he did not think anything of the environment. Today, he sees it as fundamental to our future. He turns his attention to this new form of financing. Yes, Koreans pay property taxes. He understands the need, and sees the transferability of the program design. Then he has an idea, a source of funds to initiate the program! Excitement is contagious.
The Solar Rally!
The kids are fired up; the sun is shining on Victory Christian’s solar flag. Today there will be a short solar rally to welcome the Mayor of Gumi and his colleagues. Several of the Korean-American students have heard of Gumi. Some Korean parents arrive. Pastor Tony speaks about the importance of the sun.
Anaheim Public Utilities Commissioner Jordan Brandman welcomes the delegation, and turns to the children. “You are our solar future.” Mayor Nam has the pleasure to speak to the children too. Teacher Jim Parsons explains what his classroom is doing with solar education; he shows a graph of the system’s recorded production for a week. EcoMotion is under contract to select the schools, install the systems, and provide the teacher and student education.
Partnering with Long Beach
What variety. Off to the Aquarium, one of the greenest in the world. Each of its new facilities is LEED Platinum. Barbara Long explains that they have taken so many steps, from reducing the size of the self-guided tour brochures, to daylighting the water tank exhibits complemented with photo-sensor-controlled lights, to serving only sustainably caught fish in the Scuba Café.
Racing off to meet Mayor Bob Foster thanks to scheduler Bill Doll. Mayor Foster is warm and welcoming and eager to collaborate with Mayor Nam and the City of Gumi. He is honored that Long Beach is on the net zero carbon tour, and pleased to learn of our visits to the Aquarium and Airport. A memorandum of understanding is signed by the two mayors; many photos taken.
Long Beach Airport is also among the greenest in the country. Solar Lane at the airport was developed by EcoMotion for EcoMedia in 2008. Its dual-axis solar trackers with Sanyo bi-facial panels shimmer in the afternoon sun. They’re strategically located in view for arriving passengers held “captive” for ten minutes or so waiting for their bags.
Construction planned; new terminal will feature the absence of jet-ways. Airport Manager Mario Rodriguez tells us that passengers like walking on the tarmac, seeing the plane and its belly and climbing aboard. This saves energy too. With Long Beach’s perfect climate, it’s a natural.
We board the bus, and Christine Edwards takes us through security and onto the airfield. We pass Jet Blue jets and baggage operations. She highlights the extent of grassy areas, and discusses raptor control. The airport has an extensive rainwater retention system. She discusses plans for green tugs LED lights have recently been approved by the FAA that will slash airport electricity and maintenance costs.
TreePeople is one of Los Angeles’s great non-profit organizations, formed by a 15-year old boy by the name of Andy Lipkis who was inspired to plant trees to cut smog. It has a 35-year track record greening LA. TreePeople today is a virtual army of young and dedicated staff nurturing and growing trees in Los Angeles.
TreePeople has a welcoming facility on top of Coldwater Canyon. We are welcomed by Edith Ben-Horin, as well as Deborah Weinstein, and Craig Prizant, and Board President Peggy Light and Board Members Sara Nichols and Gwyn Guillen. TreePeople’s mission is uniting the power of trees, people, and technology. Helping nature heal cities!
School groups routinely come to TreePeople for field trips to learn about urban forestry, groundwater reclamation, and habitat preservation. Brand new is a rainwater collection system that has a 216,000 gallon cistern that is totally full, thanks to last week’s torrential rains. It’s ready to provide all the site’s needs for the year. What a demonstration.
A captivating display: On one hand is a typical home that wastes water. Runoff becomes contaminated on its path to the ocean. The other home features smart technologies: rainwater collection with rain barrels, bio-swails, and semi-permeable surfaces. No water reaches the ocean. We plant acorns, dedicating trees in friendship. Mayor Nam states his intent to replicate TreePeople in Gumi.
Learning to Register, Buy, and Sell
Day Six and the delegation were getting weary. What an education!
The importance of measuring and accounting for emissions is featured. Robyn Camp explains that these are essential steps in establishing the rules for the road (regulations) as well as compliance protocols, all adding up to establishing cap and trade systems.
The Climate Registry – now with a total of 388 members – is a non-profit collaboration of North American states, provinces, territories, and native sovereign nations. It sets consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify, and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions. Rachel Tornek digs into the details of the protocols. Original members included Eastman Kodak, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
The Climate Reserve is a national offsets program, the sister organization of the Climate Registry. It’s just across the hall. As the Registry provides emissions for an entire city, or industry, the Reserve verifies projects. These are measured in terms of CRTs, or Climate Reserve Tonnes. So far, the Reserve has transacted 2,505,296 CRTs.
The Climate Reserve has 203 account holders, as well as 30 registered projects, and another 120 projects “listed.” The Climate Reserve develops measurement protocols and verifying projects to assure buyers and sellers of value. The Reserve allows a buyer – or aggregated buyers in the case of Climate Watch – to purchase offsets from a bona fide source.
Sun Setting on the Santa Monica Bay
The afternoon sun was shining in Santa Monica as our tour began to wind down. Councilmember Richard Bloom welcomed the delegation. He presented a proclamation of support to Mayor Nam. Shannon Parry and Susan Munves presented Santa Monica’s impressive track record of green efforts, featuring its Solar Santa Monica program.
“The golden squeeze” may be hard to translate, but it’s an encouraging and comfortable metaphor. Shannon Parry described the City’s support for environmental issues from both elected officials and the public. Both gloves are eager to take bold green steps.
Santa Monica was the first California city to adopt a Sustainable City Plan in 1994. It has goals and indicators, numeric values and reviews to check on progress. An annual Sustainability Progress Report gives grades for actions in the resource areas. Santa Monica pledged to reduce its citywide emissions by 15% by 2020 from 1990 baseline levels. So far it has achieved a 7% city-wide reduction, meeting the Kyoto commitment levels.
Led by Stuart Cooley, we visit the Public Safety Building and discuss its features. We take a close look at the 181 kW solar system on the Civic Center parking structure; we visit “502 Colorado Court,” 42-unit, single room occupancy facility that was designed to be a net zero energy (versus carbon) building, awarded by the American Institute of Architects for innovation.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
The trip was a success. The delegation visited five cities, two utilities, a national energy lab, and two leading organizations. The Mayor of Gumi met three other mayors – in San Jose, Palm Desert, and Long Beach – as well as two city council members, a former CPUC commissioner, four Commissioners, and a host of highly knowledgeable professionals. There were MOUs, proclamations, dedications, a key, even “Gumi Day.”
A variety of green measures were explored, from AB 811 financing to student education, from highly controlled buildings, to stopping waste. We explored effective transportation from electric trolleys to green airport design and bike valet. All told, we visited eight LEED buildings, four Platinum and two Gold.
Filled with perspectives, plans, strategies and tactics. Now the work begins in Gumi, forging a sustainability plan that makes sense today and tomorrow, catapulting Gumi into the clean and green center that its leaders envision.
Speaking on behalf of EcoKR and EcoMotion, it is our honor to meet and learn from the highly successful professionals we visit on these tours. Congratulations for the green accomplishments, and thanks for sharing. Our colleagues from Gumi were really blown away!