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.

Indicator Overview

In 2013, the three main sources of GHG emissions in the state were: transportation (37%), industrial (23%), and electricity generation (11%). Total energy use in the county in 2015 was 34.6 trillion British thermal units (Btu), 15% lower than peak levels in 2008. In 2015, almost all of the power in San Mateo County was purchased from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). In 2015, 30% of the PG&E energy mix came from renewable sources; to meet California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the share of renewables must increase to 33% by 2020.

As of January 2013, 17 of the 20 cities and the county itself have approved Green Building ordinances, requiring new construction as well as major renovations to meet certain minimum green rating levels.

Energy Use

  • Total energy use in the county in 2015 was 34.6 trillion British thermal units (Btu), 15% lower than peak levels in 2008.
  • Annual per capita usage dropped to 20 million Btu, a decline of 1.3% from 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.

Energy Watch

San Mateo County Energy Watch has partnered with the San Mateo County Office of Education to benchmark all 173 public k-12 schools in the county and provide assistance with Prop 39 energy upgrades. Their Climate Corps Bay Area Fellow is benchmarking water usage of the public schools and performing domestic water audits to identify opportunities for water conservation. SMC Energy Watch is providing engineering services to cities in the county to enable them to move forward with energy efficiency retrofits.

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Energy Supply

  • In 2015, almost all of the power in San Mateo County was purchased from PG&E, making its supply mix an important measure of the impact of electricity use.
  • The portion of solar power has greatly increased from 8% in 2012 to 38% in 2015, while all other renewable sources decreased.
Nov2016Label Progress Towards California's Renewable Portfolio Standards 2014
  • 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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‟The earth and the human community are bound in a single journey.”—Thomas Berry