By Garlynn Woodsong | CNA Board Member, SW1 CNA LUTC Chair
We are emerging from not just four lost years, years during which our country made no national commitment to meaningful action in response to the threat posed by climate change. We are also emerging from a lost decade that saw us fail to achieve our emissions reductions goals for 2020 that were set at state, regional and local levels of government.
We must make 2021 the year we begin taking meaningful climate action.
There has been some discussion globally about 2021 being the year for sustainable energy. Indeed, sustainable energy is a policy focus at the state and local levels this year as well.
With passage of Ballot Measure 26-201 in 2018, the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) will soon begin paying for weatherization, clean energy installation projects, workforce and contractor development, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture. Its focus is on serving historically marginalized community members.
This will allow more neighbors to also begin to focus on sustainable energy at our own homes and businesses, with funding supplied through this program. Those folks who may not have sufficient income or assets to qualify for the Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO) program will especially benefit from the new PCEF program.
What does this all mean?
It means that buildings are a big chunk of the problem when it comes to climate emissions. It’s not just the petroleum-powered cars most of us drive around. Our homes and business buildings depend on electricity that comes from a grid that still includes a sizable amount of fossil fuel-sourced power. Buildings also may directly burn fossil fuels in the form of natural gas to heat water and our interior air.
The more we insulate our buildings, install double-pane windows and plant trees to shade our buildings during the hottest days of the year, the less energy it will ultimately take to heat and cool them.
Through PCEF and CEWO, a combination of loans and grants should be available for most residents and businesses to retrofit buildings. We can make buildings more efficient by installing electric room heating/cooling systems, such as heat pumps and mini-split systems. We can retrofit them with hybrid electric water heating systems, and renewable energy generation and storage equipment.
There’s at least one promising way to meet the moment locally when it comes to coordinated community responses to the need to transition our buildings off fossil fuels. That’s to form local sustainable energy cooperatives to hire and train local residents to retrofit buildings.
Work would focus on:
- Increasing energy efficiency
- Switching heating, cooling, water heating and lighting systems over to the most efficient options available today • Installing renewable energy generation and storage equipment
- Installing grey water systems so trees planted in the yard to help cool the building receive water during summer droughts, even during outdoor watering curtailments
If you are or would like to be involved in such efforts, please contact me at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.
The piece headlined “Let’s make 2021 the year of climate action” in the February CNews referenced the Clean Energy Works Oregon program, which is no longer available. CNews regrets the error.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.