OAKLAND — Businesses and residents will be given new incentives to go green as Oakland and surrounding cities will soon be hit by a flood of stimulus dollars for clean energy programs, officials said Wednesday.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums joined other city officials, and business and community leaders in saying Oakland is a partner in five federal stimulus grants expected to be awarded by the California Energy Commission. They are, in total, worth more than $40 million and will provide more than 4,000 jobs.
"This is a major statement," Dellums said. "It's a good day for Oakland; it's a good day for the region; it's a good day for the state; and, at the end of the day, it's a good day for the country."
California Energy Commission staff members sent out notice last week of the proposed awards, which total $110 million across the state. The awards are expected to be finalized by the commission soon, possibly next month.
It was not clear how much of the $40 million will flow directly to Oakland or Alameda County, nor how many of the jobs will be produced in the city or county. Officials indicated it will be a hefty amount, however, which is good news for Oakland, which faced a 16.3 percent unemployment rate in December, and for Alameda County, with a 10.9 percent unemployment rate, according to state figures.
One of the grants is set to make commercial buildings in downtown Oakland more energy efficient.
"We are super-excited about bringing an unprecedented amount of resources to literally saturate the downtown Oakland corridor, and to bring the technical services and to bring the higher financial incentives to really place Oakland at the top as one of the greener cities in the world," said Derrick Rebello, president of the Berkeley-based Quantum Energy Services & Technology, or QUEST.
QUEST was the lead applicant for the $4.9 million stimulus grant for downtown commercial buildings. Rebello said he expects the effort to reduce greenhouse gases by 2,600 tons and to save Oakland businesses with $1.2 million in energy costs.
Other grants in which Oakland is involved would go toward launching a Bay Area residential energy retrofit program; creating a pilot multifamily affordable housing energy retrofit program in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco; providing local municipal governments with technical assistance and other support to improve energy efficiency in public buildings; and augmenting the CaliforniaFIRST Program, which allows property owners to finance energy improvements on their homes or businesses through their property tax bills.
Susan Kattchee, Oakland's environmental services manager, said when she got word last week of the anticipated grants, it was a jolt of good news in a world where progress often comes slowly.
"For those of us who work on advancing the sustainable cities agenda, we typically work in increments," Kattchee said. "We'll take a win wherever we can get a win and it's usually a little teeny win. This announcement was incredible for us."