Energy and Fuel Consumption for County Facilities

The following is a summary of County electricity and natural gas usage over the past few years and the corresponding CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions are targeted for reduction by the Cool Counties initiative adopted by the County in late 2008 because they contribute to global warming.

YEAR Elec-
tricity (kWhs)
CO2 from Electricity Natural Gas (Therms) CO2 from Natural Gas TOTAL CO2 (Metric Tons)
2005 32,515,020 7,212 1,581,096 8,391 15,603
2006 32,325,389 6,686 1,924,805 10,215 16,901
2007 37,696,834 10,875 2,179,221 11,565 22,440
2008 35,988,965 10,382 2,044,251 10,849 21,231
2009         Not Yet Available
(Note: The factors that convert natural gas therms to tons of CO2 emission are constant. The conversion factor for kWhs to CO2 tons varies from year to year depending on how clean the sources of generation are and what percentage the electricity mix is of these sources as provided to us by the utilities.)

Electrical and natural gas usage is fairly consistent and the County has produced a fairly consistent amount of CO2 emissions over the years. The County has been aggressive in implementing electrical and natural gas efficiency projects (lighting, heating and ventilation system retrofits and upgrades). However these reductions have been outpaced as the square footage of maintained facilities has increased by the reconstruction of the San Mateo County Medical Center, the addition of the new Crime Lab, the addition of the Long Term Care Facility in Burlingame and the new Youth Services Center on Tower Road in San Mateo.

Not included in the above data is the fuel usage by County government. Gasoline and diesel consumption are also major factors on the County of San Mateo's government CO2 emissions "footprint". The average miles per gallon per vehicle has increased with the acquisition of many additional gas-electric hybrid vehicles for the County fleet and efforts are underway to further increase the efficiency of fuel usage in County government.

There are other environmental issues related to energy consumption to consider when determining goals and strategies.

  1. The relationship between water and energy: Water transportation, purification, heating and wastewater treatment comprise one of the biggest energy uses in the state. Therefore, water conservation programs are also energy conservation programs. Energy conservation programs also reduce the need for water as the production of electricity and the cooling of energy plants require water.
  2. Air quality: The generation of electricity that is used at County facilities may take place outside of the County and therefore the CO2 emissions associated with electrical generation may also take place out of the County. However, the effects of the use of natural gas will have a local impact on air quality. Gasoline and diesel usage also affects local air quality. Other CO2 reduction programs such as promoting commute alternatives improve air quality, but these programs are not covered in the above data.
  3. Environmental impacts of infrastructure: San Mateo County and San Francisco are in a transmission-constrained area, meaning that there are limited transmission paths to move electricity up the peninsula. With the continuing increase in energy demands on the peninsula, more infrastructure will be needed. This has many environmental implications, including construction, environmental justice, and land use issues.
  4. Transportation of Fuel: Emissions from gasoline and diesel use are caused by more than just driving. Impacts on air quality also occur from the transportation of fuel to the stations, storage in distribution centers, and the process of filling the underground tanks at gas stations. Increasing gas mileage per vehicle reduces all of these impacts.
  5. Global warming: Whether or not the current federal administration considers global warming to be a concern, Sustainable Silicon Valley, the governor of California and Senator Feinstein understand the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. Using CO2 emissions as an overall measurement offers the County a more global perspective in weighing alternatives.

For instance, the installation of a co-generation system, which switches our energy use from electricity to natural gas, will save money and reduce electricity consumption by heating water that is used in the facility with the waste engine heat. However, the CO2 emissions remain constant except for peak energy usage hours when our local utility depends on the dirtiest options for generating electricity to meet the demand. Installation of a solar array, on the other hand, eliminates CO2 emissions for all electricity generated with the added benefit of producing the most electricity at peak demand times.