Berkeley City Council: Climate Action Plan

Posted on April 20, 2009

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Like all markets, the market for energy should be dependent on supply and demand.  However, the City of Berkeley (yes, that Berkeley in California…) is voting on Tuesday night on the continued implementation of their Climate Action Plan.  There are certain aspects to energy conservation make logical sense, but this top-down initiative typifies the municipal government’s forced program implementation without regard for landlords and residents.

Buried in the Climate Action Plan is Chapter 4 – Building Energy Use Strategies.  Coded within the text about green building and environmentally-sound building techniques is a program that would require landlords and homeowners to retrofit their properties and homes with specific “green technologies.”  These retrofits – such as henting vent updates, window replacements, new roof installations, migration to alternative energy sources such as solar power – will be the responsibility of the landlords and home owners.

Here’s the problem – how will landloards and home owners find the money to pay for these upgrades that will exceed thousands of dollars per property in most cases?  And with the Climate Action Plan scheduled for completion by 2020, will local contractors have the capacity to complete the work?  (Sure sounds like a nice piece of new business for those local contractors too…)

Berkeley’s rent control policies are clearly stated and would inhibit landlords to raise rents to reimburse these capital outlays.  Additionally, the Climate Action Plan will enable the city to gain entry and inspect any home in Berkeley for violations.  What’s to stop the municipal government to enable these inspectors extend their reach on personal liberties?

Think this is just a Berkeley being Berkeley? If any of this sounds familiar, the Obama administration inclusion money  to “weatherize” 1 million homes in the current economic stimulus package.  This program includes funding to create an inspection corps that will go out and check out homes are taking energy-efficient measures.

We have nothing against energy efficiency.  However, like all programs, there should be an economic reason for home-owners to take action.  Homebuilders are constantly introducing “green” measures in new homes built because there as a demand for these enhancements. Homeowners regularly replace and upgrade their windows because they save money on heating and install solar panels to reduce monthly energy bills.  The market and prices for energy naturally create the implementation of these measures at the individual level.