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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Town may require energy efficiency


By Julie Patel

Mercury News

Big new homes in posh Los Altos Hills could soon face a big new environmental requirement: Keep energy use below 25 percent of the maximum California allows for homes that size -- or generate 25 percent of their own power.

The proposal -- which the Los Altos Hills City Council will consider today -- would put the town in the same league as Marin County, one of very few local entities with standards about home energy use that are stricter than the state's.

Critics complain that the rule is unfair, because it would apply only to homes larger than 6,000 square feet. But Breene Kerr, the council member behind the idea, says that's what gives it impact: The bigger the house, the more energy it sucks up.

While other Bay Area cities have their own green policies -- in Palo Alto, one in 10 residents pays extra to support environmentally friendly energy -- Los Altos Hills is considered a leader in saving energy and promoting other environmental causes. Designs for its new town hall meet both goals outlined in Kerr's proposal: It incorporates solar panels that will generate 90 percent of the energy the building will use, and energy-efficient lighting and other features will cut down the building's energy use by 27 percent.

Replaces streetlights

The town also replaced all its streetlights with energy-efficient lighting and replaced its town car recently with a hybrid. Kerr's proposal would also have the town reduce water consumption, among other things.

The state requires homes to use no more than roughly 30,000 Btus per square foot per year. (It takes one Btu, or British thermal unit, to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level.) One kilowatt-hour of electricity -- which costs about 10 cents -- equals 3,413 Btus, and one therm of natural gas -- which costs about 75 cents -- is about 100,000 Btus.

At least one California city -- Berkeley -- has mandatory requirements for commercial buildings; several have them for public buildings, said Yvonne Hunter, a legislative representative for the League of California Cities. Marin County sets a cap on energy use for homes larger than 3,500 square feet.

``If the city wants to go in that direction, that's great,'' Hunter said.

Dave Hamilton, director of the global warming and energy programs at the Sierra Club, agrees.

``People who use more energy in these bigger homes naturally drive up the price for everyone else,'' he said.

But skeptics abound.

Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California's Energy Institute, said the state's standards are already the nation's strictest.

``I suspect a fair number of people would bristle at even more stringent regulation,'' he said.

People can save power by buying energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances and by tuning up and cleaning appliances regularly.

Borenstein said people who opt to generate their own energy would probably need to use solar panels, which some people think are ugly. That could lead to complaints from neighbors -- though a Los Altos Hills official said he doubts that will happen.

Others say cost is the bigger problem.

Costly solar panels

The required solar panels for a 6,000-square-foot house would cost roughly $50,000, said Beverley Bryant, executive director of the Southern Division of the Home Builders Association of Northern California.

If someone can afford to build a 6,000-square-foot home, perhaps they can afford solar power. But that's no reason to single them out, said Los Altos Hills council member Dean Warshawsky.

``My initial reaction is, I don't like to see groups of people unfairly targeted,'' he said.

12,413 Posts
Commiefornication for ya! :wink:

Maybe the town coulod just everyone's power from 11PM to 6 AM? Sounds good, right?

I'm all for better technology and saving energy, but pushing it on people wit higher taxes of jackboots is no way to do anything.

19,433 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I always felt our fixation on the BOR was going to be the kiss of death for overall individual freedom. That was the view of many of our Founders.

No one pays attention to any restriction on government power to regulate indivdual conduct except for free speech and maybe protections during police encounters.

Eventually we are going to be reduced to nation that can say anything but not allowed to do anything.
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