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A giant digital sign is seen on the campus of Facebook’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California on October 23, 2019.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

The Menlo Park, California Technology Center, home of Meta, merges with Brooklyn, New York. BlockPower in a new form of public-private partnership to electrify thousands of buildings to help meet the 2030 climate goal of carbon neutrality.

In a small California city of about 35,000 people, buildings’ fossil fuel consumption is estimated to be 41% of total emissions. BlocPower, formerly a CNBC Disruptor 50 company, is one of the leaders in residential and commercial property refurbishment to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The Menlo Park plan will start modestly, with 25 buildings electrified this year. This is voluntary, but the plan is to increase this number to over 1,000 buildings per year starting in 2024. It includes the installation of heat pumps for air cooling and heating, heat pumps for water, electric vehicle charging stations, as well as solar energy and battery storage. .

“Menlo Park has just set an important historic climate precedent by becoming the first city on the West Coast to establish a public-private partnership of this kind,” said Angela Sherry Evans, environmental quality commissioner for the city of Menlo Park, in a statement announcing the to deal with.

Electrifying 95% of existing buildings will “significantly reduce” dependence on natural gas, which accounts for almost half of Menlo Park’s greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

BlocPower is already working with New York’s Ithaca campus, home to Cornell University, which is the first municipality to commit to a 100% decarbonization plan using a new public-private partnership model. Ithaca raised $100 million in private funding last summer to support the efforts of private investment partner Alturus.

BlocPower founder and CEO Donnel Baird told CNBC last year that the 100 million buildings in the US spend $100 billion a year on fossil fuels. “Significant savings can be made,” Baird said.

According to the US Green Building Council, direct energy and electricity consumption in buildings accounts for approximately 38% of US greenhouse gas emissions, and most of the buildings that will make up the urban environment by 2030 already exist.

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, heating systems, including hot water and space heating, are important contributors to energy use in residential and commercial buildings and are the focus of climate projects, as well as insulation and lighting. Cities with less population growth will also have more old buildings in need of upgrading, rather than new buildings in fast growing communities.

Cities have taken the lead in decarbonization because most building laws are administered by state and local governments, and they set building codes. As more cities seek to become climate leaders, attracting private investors, combined with government incentives, could lower the cost of capital and interest rates for project finance.

Ithaca has set a 1 to 20 ratio for taxpayer funding and private investment.

“Given the scale of the problem, people in Ithaca are open to public and private partnerships,” Svante Mirik, mayor of Ithaca until early 2022, told CNBC during the BlocPower deal. “They understand that the government has to be the catalyst that sets the rules for the climate, but if we are going to make sweeping changes, we simply don’t have the resources to do it alone,” he said.

Smaller cities like Ithaca and Des Moines, Iowa, which also plan to target buildings, are actively seeking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions locally. Both cities are part of a new UN climate consortium called the 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Compact, which also includes Google.

In cities and towns across the US, many of the least efficient buildings are located in low-income areas, which BlocPower focuses on in its project portfolios, and these sites are often outdated and in need of upgrades to include more efficient devices. . Not only are energy efficiency standards neglected in these areas, households pay a higher percentage of income in energy costs.

Local nonprofit Menlo Spark is partnering with Menlo Park to raise up to $35 million to lower project costs for low- and middle-income households. Belle Haven, an area of ​​Menlo Park near the bay, as well as major roads where air quality is lower, were chosen as the original hub.

BlocPower, with a business model that combines the traditional construction and engineering sector with climate technology and expanded investment opportunities in underserved communities, as well as green building job creation, has projects in dozens more US cities.

Meta, formerly Facebook, announced that he had reached 100% renewable energy and total zero use by 2020.

In addition to investors Goldman Sachs, Kapor Capital, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, BlocPower received a grant from the Jeff Bezos Earth Foundation and was invited to the Apple accelerator program.

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