More public input needed on Grass Valley’s Energy Action Plan | TheUnion.com

More public input needed on Grass Valley’s Energy Action Plan

A proposed Energy Action Plan needs a lot more buy-in from the public, Grass Valley planning commissioners told the Sierra Business Council, the group tasked with developing ways the city could increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In March, Grass Valley City Council members approved a participation agreement with the council to prepare the Energy Action Plan. The goal, according to a city staff report, is to accelerate energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water efficiency projects by residents, businesses and public agencies to reduce their energy bills and increase resiliency in the community. The plan focuses on energy and water use in buildings and municipal facilities.

The program, conducted in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric, is funded by California utility ratepayers. A similar plan was adopted in Nevada City in 2015.

The first step in the plan's timeline, according to the Sierra Business Council, was the study session that took place Tuesday, in which staff presented survey results. A draft plan is slated to be completed in July, with more public hearings scheduled for August in front of the planning commission and council.

At Tuesday's public input workshop, business council staff members discussed the rationale behind preparing an Energy Action Plan and what makes such a plan successful.

Grass Valley resident Don Rivenes, a member of the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition, said he has been part of a committee supporting Nevada City's Energy Action Plan. Rivenes outlined several suggestions, including a working group of residents and business owners to help with implementation, promote existing energy efficiency programs and host energy events and workshops.

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Recommendations should be easily updatable and the city's website should contain information on the Energy Action Plan and resources, he said.

Sierra Business Council staff also shared the results of the surveys received so far. The survey, available online, will be open for two more weeks, said program director Paul Ahrns.

The number of surveys completed since June 6 — nine — drew a rebuke from Planning Commission chairman Greg Bulanti.

"Nine respondents, I have to say, is a little weak," he said. "You need at least dozens, I would say 100."

Bulanti recommended the council host a booth at Grass Valley's Thursday night market, adding, "You need to get deeper into engaging the public … Education is the key."

On Wednesday, planning technician Justine Quealy said the Sierra Business Council intends to provide more opportunities for public engagement, including promotion of the survey.

"We are confirmed to have a booth at the Thursday Night Market on June 28," she said, adding team members will have materials and information and will answer questions about the plan.

The planning commissioner also suggested coming back to the table with a funding program to help the public.

"Give them good solutions, give them achievable solutions," Bulanti said. "Nothing begets success like success."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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