How do you make the case for investing in reduced greenhouse gas emissions in a staunchly Republican city like Roseville?

“I don’t tell the council we should reduce energy use because it is the ‘right thing to do’ even though it is,” says Julia Burrows, Roseville Deputy City Manager and Economic Development Director. “I show them how we will save money if we conserve resources.”

On Nov. 4, Burrows will present the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Action Plan Analysis to city council. The 180-page report shows that without a plan to reduce emissions, the percentage of the city budget going to energy costs will continue to rise drastically for the foreseeable future.

Burrows can point to the Future Energy Cost Mitigation chart on page 6, which shows that if the city does nothing, it will spend almost $4 million more a year on energy by 2015 than it would with even the most modest emission reduction plan.

Then she can offer the council a variety of plans with varying levels of investment and varying returns based on results already seen in cities such as Santa Rosa.

“We will recommend plan C – the middle plan,” Burrows said. It calls for a 22.8 percent net reduction below 2000 levels by 2015. This will put the city in line with the 20 percent reductions being called for in the state’s AB 32 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction targets.

For Roseville, that will require a net capital cost of almost $29 million and will start paying off in the fourth year of the plan with an Internal Rate of Return of 80.1 percent.

The costs come in conservation efforts associated with the city’s three main sources of emissions: buildings, fleet and utilities.

Roseville is a full-service city that operates municipal energy and water services for residents. That gives administrators more control over conservation efforts. It also means the city has to foot the initial bill and will benefit from the big capital investment savings of not having to build another plant or buy peak power.

“The hard part is doing the initial investment for things like LED street lights in the current economy,” Burrows said. “They aren’t difficult changes, but the have to be made on a large scale and that costs money.”

Burrows plans to win as many state and federal grants as possible to leverage the city’s investment.

Alternative energy and conservation aren’t new to the city. Roseville administrators like to say the city started going green before it was cool. First solar roof was installed in the Placer County city in 1997.

The city’s updated waste management facility already recycles 70 percent of waste and makes money by selling things like polystyrene foam. It makes money and takes the voluminous material out of the landfill.

To save on fleet costs and reduce emissions, the number of city cars was reduced and a car-sharing program introduced.

The city’s new library is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified gold – the second-highest ratings given by the U.S. Green Building Council. The building, which was designed by Brian Sehnert and Williams + Paddon, houses a community television studio and environmental exploration center to promote the sustainable ideals named as one of the city council’s four priorities this year.

Roseville was the first city to adopt Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ Partnership for Prosperity Clean Energy goals in 2007. This is the same year the city formed a Green Team with economic development and building officials from across South Placer County to streamline the residential solar permitting process, inventory green resources and recommend best practices to bring alternative energy companies to the region.

“These are examples of things that were the right thing to do that also made economic development and bottom line sense for the city,” Burrows said.

If the financial carrots aren’t enough, the city is also anticipating the legal stick that the attorney general’s office is using against growing municipalities like Roseville that don’t have climate change plans in place. Any project over 55 units may have to go to an EIR if a plan isn’t developed. That could handicap any housing recovery in Roseville.

“That is why to accommodate growth, we have to plan for it,” Burrows said.

After the citywide plan is in place, Burrows plans to embark on a communitywide initiative that will include things like training companies to recycle and conserve.

“It just makes sense,” Burrows says.

JT Long can be reached at