Question: How did you help the city of Palo Alto develop a
plan for sustainable practices?
city of Palo Alto is about a 60,000-resident area. It is a unique
municipality in that it also owns its own utility. So, the breadth and
depth of what it does actually enables us to really provide a
comprehensive view of a multinational organization but within the
confines of a 60,000-resident municipality.
With the city of
Palo Alto, what we chose to do was look at the comprehensive deployment
of Hara Solution. So, there are four modules to Hara. The first is
called, "discover," which is, know the size of your footprint. Right? So
if you consider in a conceptually a car, you look at your rearview
mirror to identify where you’ve been. That’s roughly what "discover"
The second—the next three phases—are "plan," "act," and
"innovate." Those are generally what you call going forward ideas.
Right? You drive out your windshield. So, "plan" allows you to look
forward to where some of the issues are, "act" is actually the
activities that you’re doing to identify the best ways to lower
greenhouse gas management, to lower your wastewater, and to lower your
solid waste outputs. And "innovate" is as things change, new alternative
energy technology's going to emerge, rebates for incentives from the
federal government or municipalities, or states come available. You want
to ensure that you’re using the best practices. Also, as new success
stories come out. If someone else in another region, let’s say in Spain
suddenly deploys a solar panel farm, a solar farm, that actually
generates higher return on investment, than they had seen previously,
you’d want to be able to access that best practices content.
the notion was that city of Palo Alto knew that they had to go through
the "discover, plan, act, and innovate process." So what they first did
was they drove—they looked at the rearview mirror. They wanted to
understand what their baseline footprint was. How had they done over a
number of years and what was the opportunity that they saw going
forward? So they wanted a forecast of where they would be under
assumptions that city of Palo Alto is going to grow to “X” amount of
residents, therefore they were going to consume “Y” amount of
So once they created that footprint, they could now
begin to actually identify what they do next. That is where they moved
into the plan and act stage where they actually distributed the notion
of a carbon budget to each department inside the facility. That meant
that they would look at the police department, the fire, administrative
services, etc., and allot them not only a financial budget, but also a
carbon budget, and energy budget. And so these are how many
kilowatt-hours you have, or this is how much CO2 you could actually
deploy. This allowed them to identify a very complex set of strategies
that they’d want to move out.
My favorite story actually is one
that is probably the most sort of simple, but highlights the type of
change management behavior that sometimes can occur when you start to
just think differently around the environment. When the city of Palo
Alto was thinking about this, "How do you find ways to reduce energy?"
the Chief of Police actually looked at it and saw the canine unit and
realized that the air conditioning was on. He realized that if I could
turn off the HVAC and put on fans, the dogs would see no change, but I
would no longer have to be reliant on HVACs to cool that system. That
actually turned out to be a very successful project and they actually
saw a return on investment by simply moving out that story. But you can
visually picture those wonderful German Shepherd that served the city
continuing to remain cool in the summer months, but there’s no HVAC
system that’s generating CO2s into the environment.
The city of
Palo Alto seen from about anywhere from $600k-$800k in savings on an
annual basis using our platform and that’s allowed them to be able to
continue to innovate on the future series of where they’d like to go
Recorded on May 19, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman