As the San Francisco Bay Area’s council of governments, ABAG supports regional planning and cooperation among the 101 cities and nine counties that make up the region. Generally, this has meant research, planning and projects related to land use, housing, environmental and water resource protection, and disaster resilience.
What is perhaps not as well-known is that this broad portfolio of work also extends to energy and energy efficiency. Enter the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN), a collaboration of the nine Bay Area counties led by ABAG that implements energy saving programs on a regional level. BayREN draws on the expertise of Bay Area local governments to (1) Promote healthy and efficient buildings, (2) Reduce carbon emissions, and (3) Build government capacity.
Started in 2012 as a first-of-its-kind pilot program, BayREN is funded by California utility ratepayers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as through grants. One of only two Regional Energy Networks in the state, BayREN represents 20 percent of the state’s population.
BayREN Programs and Projects
BayREN has a variety of programs and a variety of financing tools and resources to make energy efficiency more affordable for everyone. In particular, BayREN provides energy and water upgrades for single family homeowners as well as multifamily properties, and, over the course of 2018, will expand its municipal programs to make public buildings more efficient and provide services for businesses. BayREN also aims to reduce energy use in buildings through improved codes and standards.
Although still in its early stages, BayREN is already getting results. As can be seen in the below infographic, nearly $35 million in rebates were paid to Bay Area ratepayers through December 2017.
A more specific on-the-ground example of the type of work BayREN is helping to facilitate can be found in Berkeley, through the Berkeley Energy Assurance Transformation (BEAT) Microgrid Project. Here, the City of Berkeley, in partnership with BayREN and others, is developing an innovative, scalable and replicable clean energy microgrid model that other communities can learn from and leverage to advance energy reliability for the public good. Funded by a California Energy Commission EPIC grant, the project aims to provide renewable power and share energy across several downtown facilities during normal operations, and provide backup power in the event of a power outage.
The preliminary microgrid design consists of solar power generation, battery energy storage and interconnected smart demand response technologies that reduce peak energy usage every day and provide clean back-up power. Once the feasibility analysis and design phase is complete, the City will pursue grant and other funding opportunities to build and install the new system.