​​​​​NACo 2014 Green Government Initiative Forum

Powering County Resilience: Renewable Energy Solutions Forum
Sponsored by the National Association of Counties Green Government Initiative​

The NACo 2014 Green Government Initiative Forum was held March 20-22 in Santa Barbara County, California.


Rob Pressly​
Program Manager

​Program Description

Renewable energies can allow counties to reduce waste, conserve energy and lower operational costs for electricity, heating, cooling and transportation fuels. Advancements in solar, wind and geothermal energy technologies have allowed counties to more reliably and securely take advantage of these sources of energy. New technologies have enabled the development of energy from once-unused sources, such as converting methane from landfills to compressed natural gas.

This one-and-a-half day forum brought together county leaders and industry experts to share how they’ve implemented sustainable energy solutions, including geothermal heating and cooling and landfill-to-gas conversion. Through presentations, panel discussions and site visits, participants learned new ways to help their counties reduce environmental impacts while cutting energy costs.

This forum was offered as part of NACo's Green Government Initiative, which supports county governments in their sustainability initiatives by providing comprehensive resources on high-priority topics including renewable energy and energy efficiency, air and water quality, transportation and land use, purchasing and waste reduction.


​Thursday Sessions

Santa Barbara County created its Sustainability Action Plan in order to develop county policies that lower energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the face of tightening budgets, as well as potential state and federal regulatory requirements. Through the plan, the county is demonstrating the vital role local governments play in improving the environment, and expects to see a number of benefits resulting from the plan, including lowerenergy bills, new economic development, lower greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.

  • Greg Chanis, Assistant Director, General Services, Santa Barbara County, Calif.

Creating Resilient Counties through Renewable Energy

Unexpected events pose a number of threats to counties across the country. Counties that are prepared to address unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters, extreme weather events, economic disruptions and spikes in energy prices, have a greater chance of bouncing back from these events. A panel of experts will discuss how their counties are using renewable energies to make their counties more resilient, and the associated environmental and economic benefits.

  • Katie Borgella, Principal Planner, Tompkins County, N.Y.
  • David Broustis, Energy Manager, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, King County, Wash.
  • Howard Choy, General Manager, Office of Sustainability, Los Angeles County, Calif.
  • ModeratorHon. Chris Rodgers, Commissioner, Douglas County, Neb. and NACo Immediate Past President

Strategies to Develop and Manage Wind Power Programs

Energy from the wind has been harnessed for centuries, but wind has yet to be widely adopted as a significant source of renewable energy. Although advancements in technology have made wind power more efficient and reliable, issues with siting, transmission and zoning regulations, among others, have hampered wind power’s growth. This presentation will discuss how counties can navigate complex issues in developing wind power to bring this renewable energy to counties across the country. 

  • Mike Bergey, President, Distributed Wind Energy Association, Flagstaff, Ariz.
  • Kelly Kepner, Economic Development Director, Benton County, Ind.
  • ModeratorHon. Victoria Reinhardt, Commission Chair, Ramsey County, Minn.

Public-Private Partnerships for Renewable Energy Development

For counties working to develop and use cleaner sources of energy, partnering with private organizations can provide the expertise needed to help achieve sustainability goals. This presentation will highlight the role private sector companies play in helping counties develop and implement energy and cost-saving sustainability projects.

  • Julie Pippel, Director, Division of Environmental Management, Washington County, Md.
  • Clark Wiedetz, Director, Alternative & Renewable Energy, Water and Wastewater Treatment, Siemens, Atlanta, Ga.
  • ModeratorHon. Gregg Goslin, Commissioner, Cook County, Ill.

Financial and Environmental Benefits of Renewable Energies

Renewable energies can provide counties the opportunity to operate more efficiently and save on energy costs, while reducing environmental impacts and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Panelists will discuss the financial and environmental benefits they have seen in their counties through implementing renewable energy projects. 

  • Craig O’Hare, Energy Programs Specialist, Office of Renewable Energy, Santa Fe County, N.M.
  • Jamie Tuckey, Communications Director, Marin Clean Energy, Marin County, Calif.
  • ModeratorJessica Beyer, Communications Manager & Business Analyst, Blue Earth County, Minn.

Tajiguas Landfill: Conversion Technology, Methane and Recycling

The Santa Barbara County-owned Tajiguas Landfill is taking the lead in providing clean energy from waste. When the Resource Recovery Project is complete, the new landfill facilities will generate one megawatt of renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing more than 26,000 cars off the road per year, generate more than $800,000 in annual property tax and provide 56 permanent facility operations jobs. 

  • GuideMark Schleich, Deputy Director of Public Works, Santa Barbara County, Calif.

Friday Sessions​

Start-up costs can often be a barrier for counties wanting to develop renewable energy projects. This discussion will highlight innovative financing programs, which counties can use to help fund the development of renewable energy and sustainability-focused programs.

  • Kayla Platt, Management Associate II, General Services Agency, Alameda County, Calif.
  • Dustin Knutson, Director of Energy Services, Institute for Building Technology & Safety
  • Angie Hacker, emPower Program Manager, Santa Barbara County, Calif. 
  • ModeratorCara Martinson, Associate Legislative Representative, California State Association of Counties