While federal leaders in the United States may be in denial about climate change, California continues to be in the forefront of policy-making to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, California initiated a cap-and-trade program, which it recognized as an important strategy to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. (If you haven’t noticed, 2020 is just a little over two years away.)

What’s a cap-and-trade program? It’s a market-based system that establishes incentives for industries to reduce emissions. It allows industries some flexibility in how they want to achieve this reduction in emissions. Here’s a scenario:

Imagine Polluter A and Polluter B, two companies that emit greenhouse gases. The state sells permits to each polluter to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases (this is the cap). In order to increase emissions, polluters buy permits from other polluters who are willing to sell them (this is the trade). Polluter A innovates and finds a way to reduce its emissions and no longer needs its permit. Polluter B wants to build more factories and needs a permit to emit more greenhouse gases and so buys the permit from Polluter A. The following year, Polluter B learns about a technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, purchases it, and now has a permit to sell to yet another polluter.

Meanwhile, the state has earned revenue from selling the original permits. California Climate Investments (CCI) has been charged with funding projects that, according to the CCI web site, “reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state and also deliver major economic, environmental, and public health benefits for Californians, including meaningful benefits to the most disadvantaged communities.” (Twenty-five percent of the funds must be spent to benefit to disadvantaged communities.)

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing meaningful benefits to the most disadvantaged communities: that’s where CESC comes in. The state’s Low-Income Weatherization Program is now funding energy efficiency measures for eligible low-income families in disadvantaged communities. There’s no doubt about it: making homes more efficient reduces greenhouse gas emissions. (In fact, last year CESC kept 33,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and helped families achieve an annual $15,000 savings on energy bills.) Starting this month, through the Low-Income Weatherization Program in the San Francisco Bay Area (administered by Build It Green), CESC will be providing energy-efficiency and weatherization measures in specific disadvantaged neighborhoods (see map). “We’re excited that there are more resources to help families lower their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gases,” said CESC Executive Director Martin Bond. Measures may include: LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, vacancy sensors, air conditioning or heater replacement, insulation, ceiling fans, weatherstripping and caulking, replacement of some appliances or equipment, and some water conservation measures. These measures can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the families money.  

Which neighborhoods are considered disadvantaged communities? The state of California uses a map from the California Environmental Protection Agency that uses a CalEnviroScreen score to identify communities that are both economically and environmentally disadvantaged. Residents of single-family homes in these areas who also meet low-income requirements are eligible to enroll in the program.

Don’t live in an eligible neighborhood? You could still qualify for another residential program, CESC’s Energy Efficiency Services. Contact us to find out.