CEC innovates and incubates real life solutions in areas with the most impact on climate change. Our programs provide pathways to clean vehicles, solar energy, resilient food systems and reduction of single-use plastic.
Our Work, Our Impact
We invite you to join our movement to create a healthy, prosperous and green Central Coast.
This year, the tri-county region reached a major milestone: One Gigawatt of solar energy (that’s one billion watts), which is enough to power almost a quarter of a million households. CEC’s advocacy helped bring 800 megawatts of utility-scale projects to fruition in the Carrizo Plain, as well as several commercial installations. In addition, our Solarize Program has educated over 3,000 homeowners on the benefits of this technology, and has directly helped 657 households install rooftop solar – saving homeowners $2,210,814 since the program began.
COMMUNITY CHOICE ENERGY
This important tool would give tri-county residents the power – literally – to choose what percentage of our region’s power comes from locally-generated clean energy sources. As the leading local advocate for Community Choice, CEC has built the coalitions and public support needed to move forward a tri-county study of this tool. Learn more at: sbcenergychoice.org.
HYDROGEN FUELING & ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Our work has led to 360 public charging stations for electric vehicles in the region, and the first hydrogen fueling stations in the tri-counties. Over the last few years, we have held 14 Green Car Shows and provided 2,907 test drives in highly efficient cars – leading to electric vehicle ownership that is 4 times the national average. Behind the scenes, CEC and partners like the Air Pollution Control District have helped develop 5 transportation plans in 3 counties, aimed to increase the region’s capacity for more alternative fuel vehicles.
With CEC’s leadership, Santa Barbara City and County have passed bag ban laws that eliminate over 100 million single-use plastic bags from annual distribution. In addition, our Rethink the Drink program has provided plastic-free education programs to over 21,000 students in tri-county schools and installed 84 water refill stations that have been used nearly 3 million times.
FOOD SYSTEM REFORM
Food waste is just one part of the food system that has huge social, environmental, and economic impacts. Consider that in the U.S., 40% of food is wasted between the field and the fork—most of this being at the consumer level. This year, in partnership with the Foodbank and the Santa Barbara Foundation, CEC published a “blueprint” for an accessible, thriving, sustainable, and healthy food system. This Food Action Plan addresses every aspect of the food system—production, processing, distribution, access, and waste management—in a way that supports healthy people, a healthy economy, and a healthy environment.
Since 1970, CEC has led the Santa Barbara region — and at times California and the nation — in creative solutions to some of the toughest environmental problems. We are often referred to as a “think-and-do tank” — deeply analyzing a problem and then applying creative, real-world solutions to it.
CEC’s process for creating social change is:
- Identify a critical community need,
- Raise awareness about that need (often by setting a challenge goal for the community),
- Push state and local government to change laws and regulations that affect the issue,
- Take direct action ourselves toward that need, and
- Spur the community to adopt new behaviors.
CEC seeks to move the Santa Barbara region away from dependence on fossil fuels in one generation – Fossil Free by ’33. We are aggressively pursuing this goal by educating and activating the community around sustainable practices, advocating for environmentally-sound policies and laws, and building partnerships with other organizations to open new pathways for sustainable transportation, energy, and food systems. Our five initiatives – Drive Less, Drive Clean, Go Solar, Ditch Plastic, Rethink Food – offer accessible pathways for the community to connect with and take action on CEC’s vision for a cleaner, healthier future.
In 2007, CEC published a groundbreaking report, A New Energy Direction: a Blueprint for Santa Barbara County, in partnership with UCSB Economic Forecast Project, UC Berkeley, and CalPoly San Luis Obispo. This was one of the first regional carbon-neutral plans developed in the country. CEC and our partners performed an in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits of our region becoming “Fossil Free.” Our five initiatives work collectively to achieve the goals set forth in the blueprint.
We found that transitioning away from fossil fuels would actually save money over the long term. The savings come mostly from avoided energy costs through energy efficiency and conservation, but also from the fact that renewable energy can cost less than fossil fuels even today (wind power, in particular) — and in the future renewable energy technologies will become even more cost-effective. While there are some uncertainties, our economic advisors maintain that transitioning away from fossil fuels pays off through avoided energy, lower electricity costs, and job creation.