Benefits of a switch to renewable energy

This "Forward View" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Lompoc Record on Sept. 24, 2014:

Fossil fuels provided the energy that turned the U.S. into an economic powerhouse for many decades.

Today, we are transitioning to cleaner, renewable sources of energy that will power our future, especially solar, wind, wave and biofuels.

Scientific evidence reveals the fact that humans have brought on a change in climate that will have devastating effects if it is not reversed.

Younger people understand this. They will be living with the consequences the older generation has brought upon them for the rest of their lives. They are seeking changes that will make their world better, even though it may not be as good as the one today’s seniors remember growing up in. But they will do their best, and we owe it to them to make real changes now.

The good news is these changes don’t have to hurt. They provide environmental improvements and economic benefits.

According to a United Kingdom Treasury report, countries will likely see a 5-20 percent reduction in annual gross domestic product from climate change — if nothing is done. The costs of mitigating the worst impacts are only around 1 percent of annual GDP.

Reducing demand for fuel through conservation and energy efficiencies, switching to renewable energy and making other changes could save Santa Barbara County residents $1.5 billion by 2030, according to the Community Environmental Council’s 2007 study: “A New Energy Direction: A Blueprint for Santa Barbara County.”

Reducing energy use in buildings and improving transportation is also important to get us to what CEC calls “fossil-free by ’33.” This figure assumes some fossil fuels, mostly gasoline, will be consumed in the county, but will be offset by exporting renewable energy out of the county.

The Legislature has enacted climate-change laws that mandate a reduction of greenhouse gases statewide. Santa Barbara County has a reduction target of 15 percent below 2007 emission levels by 2020. It is in the process of approving a countywide Energy and Climate Action Plan. Its strategy revolves around community choice aggregation, sustainable communities, land-use design, transportation, built environment, renewable energy, industrial energy efficiency, waste reduction, and agriculture and water efficiency.

The plan should go before the Board of Supervisors early next month. Visit for updated information.

We applaud the county for taking a comprehensive approach to this problem. Addressing climate change needs to happen on many fronts, all of which have multiple benefits. Sustainable communities inspire more compact growth that takes away less land from farming, locates people closer to work, school and services, and encourages safer walking and biking routes for children and adults. This reduces the number of miles people need to drive, thereby reducing emissions.

Community choice aggregation (CCA) turns control of the purchase of power supplies to local residents, supplanting the power company’s monopoly on supplying power to homes and businesses. Communities decide where their power will come from. Communities in California that have formed CCAs have seen lower prices and more renewable energy. CCAs can even pay individuals for their surplus rooftop power.

The city of Lompoc is ahead of the power curve with its participation in the Northern California Power Agency formed in 1968. It has the lowest electricity rates in the county and more renewable energy in its mix.

Wherever we live, we should urge local governments to do as much as they can to encourage, implement and sometimes mandate changes that reduce greenhouse gases and promote renewable energy. We should all be involved in making this transformational change to clean, renewable energy.

Jeanne Sparks is the Communications Manager for Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at [email protected]. Forward View is a progressive look at local issues that runs on Thursdays in the Lompoc Record.