Climate Change Initiative

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Yolo County Climate Change Initiative

Climate Change Accomplishments to Date

Where Do We Go From Here? 

On January 23, 2007 the Yolo County Board of Supervisors established a working group consisting of Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad, Deputy County Administrator Dirk Brazil, and outside consultant, John Mott-Smith, charged with determining a course of action for Yolo County on the issue of climate change.

Although such a course of action will involve policies and procedures within the range of jurisdictional powers of the county, the working group thought it appropriate to first examine and review actions taken by the county to put its own house in order on this issue. Accordingly, participation by Yolo County General Services Director Ray Groom and Planning & Public Works Director John Bencomo was solicited to assist with development of a list of actions and activities the county has already taken to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas production.

Due to the foresight and leadership of Mr. Groom and Mr. Bencomo, and prior to the formation of the working group, significant actions have been taken on the issue of climate change. Moreover, the county has recently adopted important additional measures.

Climate Change Accomplishments to Date

Yolo County staff and experts have examined current county climate-change policies and have developed a listing of accomplishments in its buildings, fleet, and general practices. This list is meant to be illustrative, rather than all-inclusive; there are undoubtedly many more programs that could be mentioned.

Cool Counties

On September 11, 2007 the Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that Yolo County was joining with 13 other counties in the United States to participate in the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, thereby making Yolo County one of only 13 charter counties in the entire country making this commitment. This is a significant act of leadership and commits Yolo County to seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050.

California Climate Action Registry

Climate Action Leader LogoSince 2006, Yolo County has achieved the distinction of Climate Action Leader(TM) through the California Climate Action Registry.  The California Climate Action Registry, a program created by the California legislature in 2000, is a non-profit, public/private partnership that helps companies and organizations throughout the United States track, publicly report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The results are certified by independent third-parties to ensure compliance with Registry protocols and standardization across participants and sectors. Organizations that are willing to meet the accounting standards and third-party certification requirements of the Registry show their serious intent to address climate change. The Registry has been widely recognized as a gold standard for public reporting of greenhouse gases.

Partnership with UC Davis

Arrangements have been made with University of California at Davis Professor Debbie Niemeier in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (also, Director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment) for her students in Urban Sustainability to assist the county in studying its carbon generation and in developing policies and strategies to reduce emissions. This partnership with UC Davis will both support and supplement the audit requirements of the county’s application to the California Climate Action Registry.

Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings and Facilities and Programs

The following are examples of actions and programs undertaken in the Yolo County organization to increase the efficiency (and thereby reduce the cost) of energy used:

  • Replaced incandescent lights with compact fluorescent bulbs. This energy retrofit has dramatically saved energy and lowered costs. 
  • Conducted a countywide energy conservation retrofit program in 2004 resulting in retrofitted county building light packages, boilers, economizers, chillers, VFD’s (vacuum fluorescent display), fans, water heaters, motors, and HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) for increased energy efficiency and a projected savings of nearly one half million dollars per year over a 15 year period. 
  • Conducted a countywide computer energy management program in 2004 to install electronic computerized climate control in all major county buildings, including establishing standard thermostat levels for summer and winter for buildings that are controlled by the energy management system. 
  • Participated in several rebate programs though the county’s energy provider (PG&E), including rebates for solar installations, critical peak pricing, the “demand bidding program” that trades kilowatts for dollars by reducing load, and the countywide energy conservation retrofit program. 
  • Installed cogeneration capacity at the Monroe Detention Facility, as part of the countywide retrofit program, with an estimated savings of $30,000 per year over a 15 year period. 
  • Established a building closure program to close older, less energy-efficient buildings, including demolition of certain buildings with extremely high energy costs, for an estimated annual savings of nearly $200,000 per year over a 15 year period. 
  • Proceeded with a countywide appliance replacement program to replace, in conjunction with utility rebates, older, energy inefficient appliances, such as refrigerators (the county has more than 50 that are over 20 years old), with energy efficient Energy Star appliances.

County Landfill

Yolo County Waste ManagementYolo County captures methane gas from the Yolo County landfill, using it to generate electricity (generates about 2½ mega watts). Currently, the Integrated Waste Management (IWM) division has contracts for landfill gas and energy production rights and royalties. IWM is also working with the state on a pilot program for an anaerobic “green waste” digester, which will also generate methane. If this program is successful, it could produce enough methane to power one or more micro turbines for on-site use, or sale of the gas to an adjacent customer such as City of Davis.

Several ongoing pilot projects to increase the rate of methane production and energy generation have placed Yolo County at the forefront of waste management in the country.

Construction of New Buildings Herbert Bauer M.D. Health and Alochol, Drug & Mental Health Building

Yolo County adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards (LEED) for new county buildings. These standards set benchmarks for achievement of different levels of energy, resource, and water efficiency in new construction. These standards, as applied to the new Herbert Bauer, M.D. Health and Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health building, address a variety of features, including water usage, building location and orientation, provision for bicycle parking, landscaping, parking, waterless urinals that can save more than 400,000 gallons of water per year, energy generation, time-of-use metering, building reflectance, energy efficient appliances, recycling and salvaging, use of paint with low levels of volatile organic compounds, etc.

The building also includes a solar panel installation. The panels produce 40% of the building’s power needs, and the use of hybrid heating/cooling reduces the energy required to operate the building.

Looking forward, Board of Supervisors direction has been given that the construction of the new jail be as energy and resource conservative as permitted by law.


Yolo County Waste ManagementA recycling program has been implemented for county buildings in which paper, cardboard, cans and bottles, fluorescent tubes, oil, computers, rigid plastics, agricultural plastics, PVC pipe, toner cartridges, cell phones, batteries, and electronic waste are recycled.

Currently, the county has agreements with each of the incorporated cities for a battery drop-off program. The county charges Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland a fee for battery pickup for each drop-off site when a container is full. There is no fee for recycling the batteries. However, as the program (state-mandated) is for residential waste, the recycling containers must be placed in public areas and be accessible to the public for battery drop-off. Businesses and agencies that do not permit public access are not allowed in the program and are required to follow the requirements for a conditionally exempt, small quantity generator.

Integrated Waste Management (IWM) has a small grant ($7,000) from the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) to set up a fluorescent tube/bulb drop-off recycling program. Yolo County is working with a consultant to determine how to set this up in public buildings and retail stores as well as to provide for continued funds for the program.

Yolo Agricultural Marketing Initiative

The Yolo County Agriculture Commissioner has initiated a program to promote local agricultural programs and to reduce “food miles” (and therefore CO2 emissions) required to provide fresh food and vegetables to local consumers, markets, and restaurants. One of their most recent accomplishment was the launch of the A Taste of Yolo website chocked full of information about Yolo County food, wine and farms

Monitoring State Legislative and Regulatory Actions

Yolo County staff has been attending meetings of the California Air Resources Board, the Climate Action Team, and other state bodies charged with implementation of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, as well as monitoring activities of the California Supervisors Association of California and the League of California Cities. Implementation of state programs and policies to meet mandated reductions will involve many different parts of county government, including planning, land use, emergency services, solid waste management, and transportation. By monitoring these agencies the Board of Supervisors will be advised of opportunities and potential issues.

Transportation and Fleet Vehicles

Yolo County has installed charging stations for electric vehicles at the Herbert Bauer, M.D. Health and Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health building and will add to all future facilities as well. The first charging station was installed at Planning and Public Works. The county conducted a pilot project with all electric vehicles that did not serve its purposes except for limited commuting between local county facilities, and currently utilizes an electric vehicle at PPW for that exclusive purpose.

Integrated Waste Management is planning to install a fueling station (small above-ground gasoline and diesel tanks) at the landfill to significantly reduce the number of trips the staff must make to Woodland to refuel vehicles and purchase fuel for use in on-site equipment. The operations contractor already has a much larger diesel tank on-site for heavy equipment.

Yolo County received a grant in the amount of $287,580 from the California Air Resources Board for the purchase of low polluting construction equipment.

Lastly, the Yolo County Transportation District’s YoloBus fleet has been converted from diesel to natural gas use.

Personnel Training

Yolo County requires planning staff to attend California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and climate change courses at UC Davis Extension.

General Practices

Tree Planting CeremonyA tree-planting program has been initiated. Currently Planning & Public Works operates a small nursery and provides tree planting for county facilities.

All new development is required to provide landscaping, energy efficient designs, and increased densities to promote infrastructure and utility efficiencies.

The Director of General Services has set a goal of a 10% annual reduction in energy usage over the next 5 years.

Integrated Waste Management is working on a Construction and Demolition (C&D) recycling ordinance to require 50% of construction and demolition debris be recycled and diverted from land filling. (Marin County uses this fee to partially fund an energy management specialist in county government).

Integrated Waste Management is also working to construct and operate a mixed C&D sorting facility at the landfill that will recycle a minimum of 50% of the material sorted at the facility. (The cities of Woodland and West Sacramento have C&D ordinances).

Research Projects

Current energy and greenhouse gas related research projects that Planning & Public Works staff and interns are working on include:

  • Pilot and full-scale bioreactor (wet cell) landfill operation, which increases the rate of waste decomposition and increases the rate of methane production for more efficient methane collection and use. 
  • Groundwater phyto-remediation using kenaf, a tropical plant used for cordage and textiles. 
  • Green waste anaerobic digester to generate, collect, and sell/use methane prior to aerobically composting the green waste. 
  • Substitution of canola for kenaf in the phyto-remediation project for local market. (There is no local paper manufacturing or fiber market for the kenaf).

Where Do We Go From Here?

No universal list of actions exists that all local governments take to address climate change. Instead, it varies according to the particular circumstances of each local government. The programs and policies that are appropriate for Los Angeles County, for example, may not be what are best for Yolo County. The county can be proud of its actions to date and is now in a position to look outward from its own facilities and fleet to the broader community. The following steps appear to be common to the planning process undertaken in other communities.

Step One: Establish a baseline for energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Step Two: Create a target for reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Step Three: Develop a plan to meet the target goal.

Step Four: Implement the plan.

Step Five: Monitor the results over time and adjust as necessary.

Yolo County, through actions already taken, and in conjunction with its application to the California Climate Action Registry, is a good way along the path to completion of Step One. Creation of a target for the amount of reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas production, as well as a date by which this target should be met, and a plan for getting there, should appropriately involve the community in a discussion of methods of achieving these targets.

Going forward, to achieve a minimum reduction of 10% each year, as referenced in the Cool Counties initiative, the following actions will be necessary and are currently under consideration:

  • Develop a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) adverse purchasing policy that mandates all purchases of electrical equipment meet or exceed the PG&E Energy Star rating. This would require departments to purchase improved efficiency refrigerators, microwaves and related appliances that have greater power efficiencies and less GHG impacts. 
  • Mandate that departments replace refrigerators and related electrical appliances over a two-year period with Energy Star units. This project would replace all old appliances in the county that are not energy efficient and reduce consumption. For example, the county has more than fifty refrigerators that are over twenty years old. These can be replaced to save energy (as well as reducing older ozone damaging refrigerants). Going to an energy star unit will reduce electrical consumption and therefore emissions by 5-7%. 
  • Request departments reduce their use of electricity by turning off lights, computers and monitors when not in use. 
  • Request departments reduce their use of vehicles by 10%, which will reduce the county’s carbon footprint by more than 180 metric tons. 
  • Transition to smaller engine vehicles reducing emissions by 8-9% each year resulting in a greater than 30% reduction in five years. That will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 172 metric tons each year. 
  • Approve a cogeneration modification project as a component of the Monroe Detention Facility Expansion Project. This project would use the current natural gas cogeneration unit to produce most of the electrical demand from the jail expansion. The unit currently has excess capacity and the addition of the jail expansion load will make the unit more efficient. The cost will be included in the jail expansion project and result in a substantial energy savings. The county will apply for PG&E rebates once designed. 
  • Proceed with a County Wide Computer Energy Management Conservation Project Phase 2. This project is planned to utilize the computer energy management system to adjust building operations to reduce energy consumption. In addition, the project will look at specific energy conservation measures that can be implemented to reduce energy consumption. Each potential reduction measure will be evaluated for cost benefit. An example is the administration building automatic doors on the first floor. The doors currently are too wide and both doors stay open too long on automatic operation, thereby wasting energy. Reducing the size of the openings and making only one of the doors open will reduce temperature loss by 60%. The lighting in the administration building and the courthouse also will be evaluated as there are new lighting technologies that will increase efficiency with less emissions and lower environmental impact, and will reduce operating costs. 
  • Direct General Services to make appropriate heating and air conditioning adjustments that will reduce the use of hydrocarbon consuming equipment. This would mean that buildings would be cooled and heated a little less, but could result in reduced GHG emissions by hundreds of tons of carbon annually.

Involving the Community

The residents of Yolo County have considerable expertise and interest in the subject of climate change, and the county would benefit from tapping into this reservoir of knowledge and expertise.

Meet with Leadership: As the county embarks on this path, will involve the leadership in the cities, the University, the Port, and school districts in order to: (a) advise these jurisdictions of its plans; (b) solicit information on what each jurisdiction is doing in the area of planning for climate change, and, (c) explore the potential for synergy and partnerships between the county and these other governmental entities. The first focused discussion with Yolo County jurisdictions was held on December 17, 2007 on the UC Davis campus. Attendees included representatives from the county, all the cities, school districts and UC Davis.

Public Forums: In conjunction with local leadership, the county will consider conducting public forums in each region of the county in order to solicit ideas, suggestions, and views from Yolo County residents on the subject of climate change and the development of targets for energy and greenhouse gas reductions. These forums would take the form of “brainstorming sessions,” the purpose of which is to collect each and any idea a resident may bring forth. The ideas will subsequently be analyzed for cost-effectiveness, policy, feasibility, and other factors before being forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for discussion.