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Sunny, Sustainable Palm Desert

Bill Roth | Friday February 12th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Yesterday I profiled Gainesville, Florida’s efforts to develop a sustainable economy. Today I move west to profile Palm Desert, California, which has Republican leadership that is creating jobs, lowering residents’ electric bills while also protecting some of the most beautiful desert country in the world.

Palm Desert has taken a national leadership role implementing a program called PACE which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. It is a revolutionary path for local governments to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy investments made by thecommunity’s property owners. It works like this, a city raises cash for investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy through city issued 20-year government bonds. A property owner, commercial or residential, applies for a 20-year load from the city to finance qualified investments, such as energy efficient insulation or roof top solar systems on their property to lower their energy consumption and green house gas emissions. And they pay for the loan through their property taxes. If they sell the property, the PACE loan obligation moves with the sale of the building to the new owner reflected in their property taxes.

“What this type of loan program does for Palm Desert is to enable investments by our property owners in energy efficiency and renewable energy without impacting their credit during this time period where traditional sources of lending are harder to come by,” explains Jim Ferguson, City Councilperson for Palm Desert. “It is a win/win for the city, the property owner and the environment. This loan program benefits the city by creating local jobs, the property owner benefits from lowering their electricity costs while also increasing the value of their property and this program protects our pristine desert climate that supports our tourism, second-home real estate market and the movie industry that does a lot of filming in our area.”

One example of local job growth created through PACE in Palm Desert is Renova Energy Corporation. Vincent Battaglia, President of Renova, started his business in direct response to the growth in opportunities to sell energy efficiency and solar energy to Palm Desert property owners. And he is giving back to his community by pioneering a Green Zone Campus to train the workers needed by his company and the Palm Desert business community to install energy efficiency and solar power equipment.

“Going green is the wave of our community’s economic future,” Battaglia explains. “Companies like Renova Energy Corporation offer solutions to high electric bills while also protecting our beautiful desert climate. And the Green Zone Campus can be a big part of our job growth as we build a work force that is local and sustainable.”

Love At First Bite Catering and the Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa are two examples of how this local and sustainable focus is migrating into other, non-energy, market segments. Paul Hietter is Executive Chef and President of Love At First Bite Catering & Event Planning serving the Palm Desert and Palm Springs area. As sustainability awareness grows among the citizens of the Palm Desert region he is finding more of his customers asking for organic, locally grown foods served on recyclable and compostable service ware. And Paul caters to the film crews that draw upon the region’s unique topography. “The film industry is focused upon leaving their shoot-sites as pristine as they found them and my ability to offer this sustainable service is a competitive advantage for my business and a core contribution I make to my community,” Hietter explains.

This same combination of business acumen and community dedication is being executed by the Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa. “Golf is a major tourism draw for our city,” explains Diane Drucker, Director of Destination Sales. “We re-engineered one of our two courses to offer an eco-friendly golf experience. The customer response has been overwhelmingly positive. We now annually distribute 300,000+ biodegradable bamboo golf tees. We have switched from water intensive vegetation to a dry-tolerant landscape that reduces the need/costs for water and chemicals. Our entire water system is self contained on location drawing upon ground water we recycle back into the aquifer. And the enabling lake within this system is now a major bird preserve recognized by the Audubon Society. This eco-friendly course is drawing customers to our hotel, saving our hotel money by being less expensive to operate and we are contributing to our community’s success as a world-class desert-tourist destination location.”

“$45 million in loans toward sustainable and energy efficient solutions is our goal,” Ferguson summarizes. “And achieving this level of investment will reduce utility costs by at least 50% for approximately 22,000 local buildings while also achieving a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 30% for our community. I am a Republican and a program like this is not a political issue, it is just common sense. It supports our economic development, it creates local jobs, it protects our invaluable local environment and it is American.”

Over the last two days I have profiled Gainesville, Florida and Palm Desert, California. What is your town doing to build a local, sustainable economy that is restoring jobs, the economy and environment? Here’s your chance to brag by posting what your town is doing in the comment section below.

Bill Roth is the founder of EARTH 2017 and author of The Secret Green Sauce.


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