Energize Fresno: CivicSpark Case Study
Janelle Del Campo, CivicSpark Fellow 2016-17
Local Government Commission
Energize Fresno is part of CEC’s EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities (AEC) program. It is a new initiative to develop a blueprint for an “Energy Opportunity Zone” in a focused area in Fresno. Energize Fresno will catalyze innovation in advanced energy infrastructure while also reducing costs for residents and businesses on energy, identifying funding opportunities, improving health for the local community, and creating new economic opportunities. Ultimately, the blueprint will become a model for other communities across the state that can be replicated, promoting further investments and awareness of advanced energy technologies.
Lead Agency and Partnerships
Energize Fresno is a partnership between the Local Government Commission, the City of Fresno, Fresno Metro Ministry, CALSTART and Tierra Resource Consultants.
The project is funded by the CEC’s EPIC Challenge grant, it is to fund a competition that will challenge project teams comprised of building developers, local governments, technology developers, researchers, utilities, and other project partners to develop innovative and replicable approaches for accelerating the deployment of Advanced Energy Communities. It must align with other state energy and environmental policy goals at the community level such as the Sustainable Communities and Environmental Protection Act (Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg, Chapter 728, Statutes of 2008) and Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-29-15 for the drought.
The Energize Fresno team consists of local stakeholders including local government, community organizations, and residents, and so local stakeholder input has been a feature of the program. In order to solicit broader local stakeholder input on specific items, a local Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) was formed that includes representatives from local government, regional government entities, non-profits, community organizations, educational institutions, developers, and businesses. While the primary purpose of the TAC is to guide the strategy and focus of Energize Fresno in terms of project type, technology type, and geographic area, they also serve as an avenue for the introduction of potential projects and new project partners. The TAC meets quarterly to review project status and provide feedback. Between meetings, they are engaged on specific project elements and encouraged to continue engaging with their respective communities.
Climate Impact Area
Fresno is a city that has a great diversity of cultures and languages as well as a large disparity in resident incomes. As the population continues to grow, increased pressures are placed on the current transportation system, local economy, housing stock, energy infrastructure, and other existing resources, exacerbating the financial strain on many citizens and threats brought on by climate change. The Energize Fresno model will help cities meet the state’s efforts to more effectively manage resources, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, becoming more energy efficient, conserving water, preserving air and land quality, and protecting the health and safety of residents.
The project will be funded in two phases. The project has completed Phase I and received $1.5 million to focus on the development of innovative planning, permitting, and financing approaches for Advanced Energy Communities, as well as the development of a real world conceptual design of an Advanced Energy Community. The project must combine regulatory streamlining strategies with a real-world development example to produce a shovel-ready Advanced Energy Community, and a case study that describes the actions, challenges and lessons learned from the project. Energize Fresno is competing for Phase II funding, which will support the build-out of an Advanced Energy Community that was proposed during Phase I.
Research and Data
Phase I focuses on the development of innovative planning, permitting, and financing approaches for Advanced Energy Communities, as well as the development of a real world conceptual design of an Advanced Energy Community. The project must combine regulatory streamlining strategies with a real-world development example to produce a shovel-ready Advanced Energy Community, and a case study that describes the actions, challenges and lessons learned from the project. A Master Community Design was drafted to show real world conceptual design of a proposed Advanced Energy Community. The community design includes descriptions of the proposed location(s) for the development, community spaces, energy technologies to be deployed, water saving technologies, advanced energy infrastructure, and how these elements are combined in a systems approach. Tools and resources are found in the CEC’s EPIC Challenge Manual.
Solutions that were encountered lessons learned from research and the development of the master community design. This includes the development of tools and recommendations for use in planning and building departments to allow for more streamlined review of future submittals of Advanced Energy Community plans. Challenges the development of tools and recommendations that are appropriate for the project site as well as can be replicable in other cities statewide. The CEC provides a manual and guidelines for the EPIC Challenge to help achieve this project more easily.
Benefits include projects that can significantly reduce energy costs for households and businesses, and increase economic development. Other benefits include strategies to help residents and business owners save energy and water and reduce their utility bills, outlines of resource saving programs such as rebates for turf replacement, energy efficiency upgrades, solar installations, plug-in electric vehicle infrastructure and energy efficient appliances, funding and financing opportunities matched to municipal and community projects, descriptions of clean energy technology pilots that can be deployed in the community to drive private investment, community engagement to develop the Community Plan that will form the basis of an additional 14 million dollar grant application to implement programs and infrastructure upgrades, as well as tools to track energy, water, air quality, land use, and transportation improvements in line with state and local sustainability goals to position Fresno for additional funding.
Energize Fresno is concentrating initially at a neighborhood scale, and aims to facilitate building and infrastructure upgrades to reduce costs, and improve community health and prosperity. Ultimately, the Energy Opportunity Zone will become a model for communities across the state, where other cities can use and replicate the tools used for Energize Fresno and helping to raise the visibility of energy, water and transportation investment opportunities in Fresno.