San Jose flips the switch to sustainable energy

Pranav Mishra

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When talking about the environment, things are heating up, quite literally. At a time when the U.S. has the highest carbon emissions in the world, drastic change seems imperative. With San Jose’s Clean Energy initiative, scheduled to be implemented in February, the city plans to prompt such change. By implementing a bold new system that promises to decrease city emissions by a whopping 18 percent, the environmentalist spark in the community is gaining voltage quickly.

“The San Jose Clean Energy initiative, which makes us go 80 percent carbon free with our energy, is a huge step forward from the environmentalist viewpoint,” said Dr. Nimisha Shukla, PhD in Environmental Science and Oceanography. “We’ve always advocated being cognizant of our actions in terms of the impact they have on our surroundings, and starting February, we’ll actually be taking concrete steps toward lowering our footprints.”

The program will switch all of San Jose’s residential and commercial buildings to one of two clean energy systems. The default option is called GreenSource, which receives 45 percent of its energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, and another 35 percent from additional carbon-free sources, such as hydroelectric power. However, residents can choose another clean energy option offered by the program, TotalGreen, which promises to use 100 percent renewable and carbon-free sources but at a slightly more expensive rate.

Starting in 2020, the program also hopes to implement a Rooftop Solar initiative through which residents can integrate renewable energy sources directly into their own houses with the installation of solar panels. This initiative has already taken root in more than 10 neighboring cities, including Alameda and San Francisco.

“The San Jose Clean Energy program is just the beginning of the environmentalist movement,” said senior Amol Singh, president of the Hiking and Environmental Impact Club. “I hope we can ride this momentum and continue combating other environmental issues, like chemical leaching and plastic waste, and continue making a difference to our own community.”

The San Jose Clean Energy program is just the beginning of the environmentalist movement. I hope we can ride this momentum and continue combating other environmental issues, like chemical leaching and plastic waste, and continue making a difference to our own community.”

— Amol Singh, president of the Hiking and Environmental Impact Club, senior

If successful, the program will decrease carbon emissions dramatically, with its predicted effects being equivalent to the removal of 35,000 cars from the roads. In addition, it will also lower costs by 1 percent from the standard Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) provider, which currently provides energy to most of the city. Similar initiatives in other cities by the same program have already shown promising economic benefits, having saved $89 million in the Bay Area alone since their implementation.

Many in the community are delighted by the switch. Junior Madeline Shao, for example, sees many potential benefits of the new energy source.

“As an environment enthusiast, I’m really excited for this new energy system,” Shao said. “I do as much as I can to keep my household carbon emissions low, and this new source will be a big step forward for the whole city. The fact that it’s cheaper than the PG&E sourced energy also means a lot to my family.”

There are people, however, who feel more hesitant about this change. Therefore, the San Jose Clean Energy program does allow residents to opt-out by filling out a form and thereby stick with the standard PG&E’s hybrid sources.

“I think many of us have concerns about the reliability of the new energy source,” said sophomore Roy Long. “The standard [PG&E] has been established for a long time and has more of a reputation as well.”

Regardless, as the scheduled date of implementation nears, the city of San Jose is charged in anticipation for change. Whether the Clean Energy program’s effects will be electrifyingly positive or shockingly disappointing, however, are yet to be seen.