Energy Use  Energy Supply  Green Buildings

Sustainability Goals

Energy is produced from renewable and greenhouse gas-neutral sources and is used efficiently. New buildings are constructed to the highest green standards, and older buildings are retrofitted to ensure efficient energy use. While working to mitigate GHG emissions, communities simultaneously implement adaptation measures, such as building levees or restricting development in floodplain areas.

Energy Use

  • Total energy use in the county in 2016 was 34.78 trillion British thermal units (Btu), a slight increase from the prior year.
  • Annual per capita usage was up by 170,000 BTU, an increase of .8% compared with the previous year.
  • In 2013, there was an even split between residential and non-residential energy use. This changed in 2014 when San Mateo showed a higher share of non-residential usage, similar to neighboring counties.

Peninsula Clean Energy

As of April 2017, Peninsula Clean Energy became the default electricity provider for San Mateo County and increased access to renewable energy. All customers are automatically enrolled in the ECOplus plan that provides 50% renewable and 80% carbon free energy, at a price 5% lower than the rates offered outside of the program. Customers that “opt-up” to the ECO100 plan receive 100% renewable and carbon free wind energy, at a cost of one cent more per kilowatt hour compared with ECOplus. In October 2016, Peninsula Clean Energy launched service to 20% of residences, all small business, and municipal accounts resulting in 56 million pounds of carbon emissions avoided.

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Energy Supply

  • In 2016, almost all of the power in San Mateo County was purchased from PG&E, with the exception of 79,982 customers that purchased electricity from Peninsula Clean Energy beginning in October 2016.
  • The portion of solar power in the eligible renewable energy mix increased by 388% from 2012 to 2016.
  • Eligible hydroelectric energy increased by 80% from 2015 to 2016, while the amount of biomass and waste, geothermal, and wind energy decreased.

Energy Watch

The San Mateo County Energy Watch (SMCEW) is funded by California ratepayers, administered by PG&E, and staffed by the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability.  SMCEW serves residents, businesses, municipalities, and schools within San Mateo County. Through a contract with Ecology Action, SMCEW is able to provide services such as no-cost energy audits and assistance with energy efficiency upgrades.  Contact them for help saving energy, money and the environment!

  • Under California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the state’s utility providers must procure 33% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.


PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is an innovative energy financing mechanism that began in California in 2008. Through a PACE program, property owners can finance energy efficiency, water efficiency or clean energy projects with no up-front costs. Property owners first have their upgrades assessed by an experienced contractor to weigh the cost of the upgrade against the projected energy savings. Qualifying property owners receive 100% funding for their projects from their local PACE program and then pay it back over the long term (usually 20 years) as a property tax assessment. PACE enabling legislation is in place in 31 states, including California, and nearly 500 municipalities.

While municipalities have to set aside resources to launch programs such as PACE, there is evidence that investing in this type of upgrade has significant economic benefits. A 2011 study showed that $4 million invested in PACE generated $10 million in economic output, $1 million in net tax revenue, and 60 jobs.

All of the cities plus the County of San Mateo are eligible for California First, a program that provides financing for commercial & residential PACE programs. California First requires cities to market the program and pay fees to bring down the interest rates. HERO, a residential PACE, and Fig Tree, a commercial PACE, have no costs to the cities. To operate either program, the cities need to opt into a statewide Joint Power Authority (JPA). To date, approximately 150 cities/counties in California have adopted the HERO and Fig Tree programs. On April 29th,  Menlo Park adopted the HERO PACE Program and has indicated it is conducting due diligence on the Fig Tree Program. The City of South San Francisco adopted the Fig Tree program.

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Green Buildings

  • Green building square footage continues to climb. 99% of green building square footage has been built since 2008.
Approved Green Bldng Ordinances Table-1.eps
  • As of May 2014, 18 of the 21 jurisdictions in the county have approved Green Building ordinances, which require new construction as well as major renovations to meet certain minimum green rating levels.
  • Greenpoint is used for residential construction, LEED is primarily used for commercial, while CalGreen is a statewide green building code that applies to both residential and commercial buildings.

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge is an international sustainable building certification program created in 2006 by the non-profit International Living Future Institute. It is described by the Institute as a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment. It can be applied to development at all scales, from buildings – both new construction and renovation – to infrastructure, landscapes and neighborhoods, and is more rigorous than green certification schemes such as LEED.

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California Energy Commission, California Energy Consumption Database. Retrieved from:

PG&E Annual Report. (2016). Retrieved from:

U.S. Green Building Council’s Database of all LEED Projects. (2017). Retrieved from:,

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From the 2017 Indicators Report

Between 1989 and 2014, low income wages decreased by 7% and high income wages increased by 27% in San Mateo County.

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‟When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”—John Muir