Strategic Energy Ideas Swirl at Symposium

Ideas abounded at the March 14 Strategic Energy Stakeholder Symposium aimed at having Santa Barbara region communities cut out fossil fuel use by 2030. 

The Santa Clara-based company Optony was hired by the Santa Barbara City Council to develop a plan to reach that goal. Optony officials led the symposium and breakout session in the Faulkner Gallery at the downtown public library where local residents discussed ideas in breakout groups. 

The discussions seemed to center mainly on how to reduce electricity use by replacing it mainly with solar power. Some ways to that included reducing government permit fees for new solar projects. 

Another idea was to have the city pay incentives for new solar installations. To raise revenue for that, water bills could be raised, for example, said Jonathan Whelan, Optony operations director whose group discussed funding sources. 

Other thoughts on raising cash included tariffs and raising property tax assessments on commercial buildings. 

One woman said her group strongly backed more electric vehicles and suggested business owners and renters talk to Southern California Edison about adjusting rates, 

Optony is supposed to present the Strategic Energy Plan to the Santa Barbara City Council by March 25. 

After lunch, representatives from the county, and cities of Carpinteria and Goleta told the audience of about 75 people about what they doing regarding a regional energy plan. They all agreed more regional coordination is needed. 

Marisa Hanson-Lopez, of the county’s sustainability division, said more, clean-technology jobs will help boost the region’s economy. 

It was noted that because of Goleta’s small size, it might be difficult to find sites to build solar farms. 

Many of the Santa Barbara County-area solar farms are in remote Cuyama now. 

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