Energy Independence: WRCOG Seeks to Mold the Inland Empire into a Leader in Energy Efficiency

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Rick Bishop, the executive director of WRCOG, recently spoke with Sean Reynolds of Energy Independence Magazine about the importance of leading the charge toward energy independence.

It’s a huge opportunity for us to mold Western Riverside County into a place that is seen as a leader for energy efficiency, a leader for education, and a leader in land use and transportation.

There are about 30 councils of government in California and over 400 throughout the United States, Bishop says. They are voluntary agencies that represent member local governments seeking to provide cooperative planning, coordination, and technical assistance on issues of mutual concern crossing jurisdictional lines. Bishop views the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) program as a “huge opportunity” to lead the region toward energy efficiency. “The HERO program has been fantastic for Western Riverside County,” Bishop said.

The program came about through legislation signed into law by then governor Schwarzenegger. Assembly Bill 811 allows property owners to finance energy efficient improvements through low-interest loans repaid as an item on their property tax bill.

“We found out that there are a lot of people that would like to improve their home with energy efficient improvements,” Bishop said. He continued to explain that WRCOG is also launching a commercial program that he expects will be as popular as the residential one. Along with significant energy savings, he says part of the success of the program comes from providing quality jobs for the region, adding that solar panel installations comprise an estimated one-fourth of all improvements financed by the help of the HERO program.

He also supports employing a skilled technical workforce to do the job. “We think that one thing that’s really going to separate out the contractors in the future is for them to be able to demonstrate that their workforce is as skilled as it can be, and more skilled perhaps than their competitors. The need for skilled electricians installing solar is only going to increase,” Bishop said.

Due to rapid growth projections for Riverside County, and the increasing need for renewable energy, Bishop, furthermore, believes there is a strong argument for building a new, updated infrastructure. “We all want renewable energy,” he says, “but one thing that people fail to understand is that often it comes from distant locations. That means you need transmission lines.”

In kind, another program supported by WRCOG, is the Western Riverside County Clean Cities Coalition. Its goal seeks to expand the growth of alternative fuel vehicles and related infrastructure. Concerning electric vehicles, Bishop says there is a need for more charging stations uniformly installed in government buildings and large businesses because they expect to see 30,000 more electric vehicles in the next eight or nine years. He says WRCOG will provide an important service because, they don’t want 17 or 18 jurisdictions, all doing different things with their permit process, ending up with infrastructure that may not be compatible with traveling from one location to the next.

About the future of Riverside County and the function of WRCOG, Bishop said, “One of our jobs is to help the citizens, the elected officials, and business to understand that Western Riverside County 20 years from now is going to be a very different place. It’s a huge opportunity for us to mold Western Riverside County into a place that is seen as a leader for energy efficiency, a leader for education, and a leader in land use and transportation.”

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Dwight Cromie

Bill Friedl
Altek Media Group
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