Our region could soon take center stage nationally on the green-building front. That’s because the Obama administration plans to create and fund a regional “energy innovation hub.” According to the Department of Energy, almost $130 million over five years will finance the development of innovative and energy-efficient approaches to designing, building and operating commercial and residential buildings.
Many regions in the United States will compete for this opportunity, but only one proposal will be chosen. Then that area will become a launching pad for private-sector research, venture capitalists, startups and pilot projects in the field of green building design and operation. Sacramento leaders would love to see Northern California become such a hub. Just as Silicon Valley is the core of the computing world, so could Northern California, if selected, become the center of the energy-efficient building design world. Imagine the possibilities.
We need to discover efficient and sustainable ways to construct and maintain the buildings in which we work and live. The more we can reduce our dependence on our shrinking resources, the more secure our country will be. Not to mention, we would be helping to save the planet. How cool is that?
Naturally, many places would like to become the green technology center of the universe. So we face stiff competition. But our area has a lot going for it. We have a cutting-edge public utility company, SMUD, which for two decades has been a leading force in alternative-energy. We have UC Davis and UC Berkeley, which have well-deserved reputations for practical research in energy. And this is California, which since the 1970s has been America’s environmental petri dish—a place where new ideas are nourished and can flourish. Also, the Sacramento region has affordable land prices, as well as the space to become an alternative-energy center.
But first we need to be selected. Fortunately, many people are working hard to achieve this goal. This week the Clean/Green Technology Team of the annual Sacramento Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap delegation will be going to our nation’s capital to explain why Northern California should be the natural choice. This team includes a wide range of Northern Californians, including representatives of the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, the cities of Roseville and Rancho Cordova, SMUD and PG&E, UC Davis and the Los Rios Community College District, and many businesses, including solar-power companies.
For the sake of full disclosure, I should mention that the group includes one alternative-newspaper publisher who is delighted that other, much smarter folks will be making the technical arguments for our region. This publisher will be very proud if our region moves into the center of the energy-efficient building design world.