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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

Program Shines Up Solar Energy

Since the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, was passed in 2006, California has expanded its sustainability efforts and innovated new solutions to reduce our carbon footprint. We’ve cultivated public-private partnerships to support our climate change goals while fostering community benefits, resulting in a diversified clean energy portfolio, increased use of electric cars and a booming new “clean tech” field.

A bill introduced last month by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) – SB 32 – would extend the environmental standards set by AB 32 by requiring California to reach an even more ambitious greenhouse gas emission limit of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Just as in 2006, some businesses are worried that tighter restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions will hurt the state’s economy and raise the cost of doing business here. However, the tremendous success of AB 32 is proof that sustainable practices can go hand in hand with economic growth. I know from firsthand experience with my own L.A.-based company, TRK Development, that it’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially without destroying the bottom line. In fact, higher environmental standards lead directly to new innovation. 

Rather than limiting possibilities, AB 32 has led to new policies and green technologies that offer Californians more ways to conserve our natural resources. For instance, TRK took advantage of L.A.’s rooftop solar feed-in tariff program, which allows commercial property owners to generate extra revenue by installing solar panels on their unused rooftops and selling solar energy to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at a fixed price. I saw the FiT program as an opportunity to take what is traditionally treated as a cost center – a roof – and turn it into an asset that will generate a 20-year return on investment.

Economic benefit

So in 2013, TRK installed a 500 kilowatt solar FiT project on a 94,000-square-foot warehouse in Chatsworth. Not only did this project help California meet its carbon emission target by providing a new source of renewable energy, it directly benefited the local economy. At least 50 people worked on site to build the solar installation, and we used local vendors and companies to supply the solar equipment. 

Sustainable practices like these encourage the kind of business growth that Californians should strive to achieve – the kind that doesn’t come at the expense of the next generation. Imagine the progress California businesses will make if challenged to continue to reduce harmful emissions to meet a new sustainability standard for the future.

While California is on track to meet the 2020 emissions limits set by AB 32, there is much more to gain by going further, including additional private investment in our state and more jobs. California businesses have met the challenge, and the same can be true again by setting a new goal for 2050.

As a developer, I do not fear the ambitious targets of SB 32. Instead, I embrace the change because I have seen the innovation, investment and job growth that has emerged as the private sector has risen to meet California’s leading environmental standards.  

California is a global leader in fighting climate change and incorporating sustainability into the workplace. When we reduce our carbon footprint and elevate our business practices, we challenge the world to do the same. Our communities, and our planet, stand to benefit from SB 32. 

Rishi Kapadia is president of TRK Development, a national commercial real estate development company based in Venice. TRK specializes in developing and managing industrial, office and, now, solar projects.

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