Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities

Infinite Earth Radio is a weekly podcast produced by Skeo and the Local Government Commission and hosted by Mike Hancox and Vernice Miller-Travis. Each week they interview visionary leaders, dedicated government officials, savvy businesses and forward thinking individuals who are working to build smarter, more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities through social and economic inclusion that values the contribution of all citizens and seeks meaningful lives for everyone. You will discover new leading edge strategies for lifting up and building great 21st century communities, along with cutting edge strategies for revitalizing under resourced communities and empowering excluded populations. Smart Growth, Prosperity and Sustainability are not possible without social, civic, and economic inclusion for people of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds.
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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities



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Now displaying: May, 2016
May 26, 2016


Providing Turnkey Sustainability Programs

In This Episode:

01:18 Introduction of Barbara Spoonhour and Dustin Reilich.
01:52 Barbara shares how the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) program started, what the goals were, and how the program works.
03:29 What does PACE stand for?
04:50 Barbara and Dustin describe the early years of the program.
06:45 Was Renovate America on board with HERO from the very beginning?
07:50 Dustin explains that the money that would have gone to utilities is being used to create jobs.
08:55 Is there an opportunity for individual households to reduce their carbon footprint as a result of the HERO program?
09:30 Is the program available to multi-unit houses, apartment buildings, etc.?
10:26 How did the HERO program ramp up so quickly?
11:40 How is the program different today than when it started in 2011?
12:46 Barbara shares the specific, measurable outcomes she wants to achieve.
14:31 Dustin explains how the expansion is going.
15:59 Are there aspects of HERO that are designed to deal with issues of environmental justice, racial justice, income inequality?
18:25 Is there any effort to target lower income communities?
19:43 Barbara and Dustin share when they realized their career focus was working on issues of sustainability.
22:14 Barbara and Dustin share if they ever imagined this program would become so big so fast.
24:55 Dustin share how people can learn more about HERO and how they can get involved.
25:50 Barbara and Dustin share one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
27:35 Barbara and Dustin describe the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
29:26 Barbara and Dustin explain what Western Riverside County, California, and our country look like 30 years from now.
30:46 Barbara explains what motivated WRCOG to reach beyond local governments to have this program statewide in California.


Barbara Spoonhour, Director of Energy and Environmental Programs, has been with Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) since 2001. Ms. Spoonhour has over 10 years of experience in local government and over 15 years in implementing environmental programs. She oversees the energy efficiency and water conservation program for Western Riverside County, referred to as HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity). The HERO program expanded statewide in 2014 and currently has over $1 billion in approved projects. In addition, Ms. Spoonhour oversees the Western Riverside Energy Leader Partnership, which is a public-private partnership with Southern California Edison that promotes jurisdictional leadership for the promotion of energy efficiency.

Dustin Reilich is the Senior Director of Municipal Development for Renovate America - HERO Financing. The HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) program provides turnkey Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program management designed for municipalities. The HERO program includes a full set of program deliverables that incorporate best practices utilized by other municipalities. This ensures each program builds on the experience of other programs, while at the same time allowing municipalities to modify the program to meet unique requirements.


HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) is a PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program that provides financing for energy-efficient and renewable energy products. In the state of California, HERO provides these same financing options for water-saving and drought-resistant products. The program offers more consumers access to energy-efficient options because HERO is financed as an assessment on your property. It incorporates renewable energy products (solar PV, solar thermal, etc.), energy efficiency products (heating systems, cooling systems, lighting, windows, insulation, etc.) and water efficiency products (low-flow toilets, weather based sprinkling systems, etc.). Clients prioritize potential eligible products based on the derived benefits which may include: costs savings, energy savings, greenhouse gas emission reductions, air quality improvements, and water usage reductions.

Take Away Quotes:

“[PACE] gives property owners access to capital they normally would not have had. It gives them options to, when they’re doing a project, of not using their credit card with super-high interest rates if they don’t have cash available or if they don’t have access to home-equity lines of credit. It is another way that they can finance a project.”

“Obviously, some projects are going to pencil out to where it creates a very positive cash flow on a monthly basis for a constituent, and some other projects just enable them the ability to get a project done that they had not been able to get done previously or they didn’t have the financing available to get that project done for, maybe, a new roof or for new doors and windows that are energy efficient. So it improves, also, their quality of life and standard of living on a daily basis as well as conserving energy.”

“Consumer protections have always been our number-one priority. We have, through lessons learned, increased and heightened those consumer protections that have always been in place but have enhanced them to look out for the elderly, additional protections there; really working with the contracting community because they are the boots on the ground and making sure that they fully represent the HERO program in a manner that we want them to represent us as and being more engaged in that whole process.”



Residential HERO Program

HERO Program Hotline: 855-HERO-411

HERO Program Frequently Asked Questions

May 19, 2016


The Impact of Trade Deals in America

In This Episode:

02:36 Introduction of Rodney North.
03:13 Rodney shares about when he became passionate about fair trade.
04:27 Rodney explains the mission of Fairtrade America.
05:54 Rodney describes the coffee-focused project that Fairtrade America is involved in.
07:45 Is there a corollary within the tea industry for those who don’t drink coffee?
09:24 Why is fair trade an important issue for working-class and lower-income Americans?
10:24 How would you define “fair trade”?
13:33 Rodney explains NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
16:15 How do trade deals impact the environment, working-class Americans, and our communities?
18:52 Is it possible to structure a trade deal when the cost-of-living imbalance is so great on a global scale?
23:03 If people don’t understand the value of organized labor and being paid a fair wage, are they able to understand what’s happening with the undermining of workers in other parts of the world?
26:07 Where can our listeners learn more about Fairtrade America?
26:48 Rodney shares one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
27:40 Rodney describes the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
28:52 Rodney explains what trade looks like 30 years from now.


Rodney North is Fairtrade America’s Director of Marketing and External Relations. Rodney oversees Fairtrade America’s marketing, public relations and advocacy efforts to increase awareness and support for equitable business practices involving smallholder farmers and other stakeholders. He has worked in the fair trade foods movement longer than all but a handful of individuals in the nation and has been deeply involved in communicating the fair trade story to diverse constituencies. Prior to his role at Fairtrade America, Rodney worked for Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative and market leader in the fair trade and organic food movements. North joined the pioneering company in 1996, serving in various positions, including for the past 15 years in media relations and public advocacy roles. He earned the nickname The Answer Man because of his extensive knowledge of fair trade, the global food industry, small farmer co-operatives, socially responsible and sustainable business practices, and how business models intersect with human development. At Equal Exchange, North was also one of the co-operative’s 120 worker-owners. He was a two-term director of the enterprise’s Board of Directors, and he served as Vice Chair for three years. North has also volunteered with the Fair Trade Federation (membership screening committee), and for four years was an advisor to the board of directors of La Siembra, a Canadian worker co-operative and 100% fair trade, 100% organic food company.


Fairtrade America is a national, nonprofit organization committed to helping smallholder farmers and workers around the world get a fairer price for their products, access to international markets, and funds for community development that will enable them to lead better lives, and invest in their communities. Fairtrade America is a member of Fairtrade International, which comprises 25 such organizations around the world and three producer networks that together establish international Fairtrade standards. Fairtrade International is unusual among ethical certifications due to the large governance role played by its members in the global south. Participating farmer producer groups hold half the votes in the Fairtrade International General Assembly and more than one-third of the seats on the Fairtrade International board of directors. The Fairtrade Mark is the most recognized and trusted ethical label worldwide, found on products sold in over 120 countries that are sourced from over 1,200 producer organizations representing 1.5 million farmers and workers in more than 65 countries. The FAIRTRADE Certification Mark is backed by high level global standards and audited by a rigorous auditing system from farm to shelf.

Take Away Quotes:

“If we, as a society, turn a blind eye to the fate of struggling workers elsewhere, that ultimately doesn’t help us here. Conversely, if we do show an interest and say, hey…looking at what’s happening in rural Puru or the mines of South Africa, if we look at that and say, you know, that just ain’t right, that’s not acceptable; well then that begins a conversation, like, well wait a minute, you know, what’s happening down the row, you know, in Toledo or, you know, the farm fields of Florida, well that isn’t right either. It rarely promotes justice anywhere by turning a blind eye to it somewhere else. I’m paraphrasing what Martin Luther King said about injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“You could say there’s fair trade—two words—which is a movement that goes way back, certainly to the post-war era, and, really, any kind of conscientious set of voluntary business practices that are designed explicitly to deliver an extra benefit—an extra social, economic, political benefit—to the producers…It’s not charity; it is saying that through my commerce with you…I’m going to try to apply something of the Golden Rule. I’m going to put myself in your shoes and ask, well, what would I want…if I was that worker in the Caribbean or Africa or wherever it is.”

“A trade deal, theoretically, could be very good for workers on both sides of the border. As it is, I would suggest that the way they’re written, it puts the owners of businesses—the ones who can move back and forth across the border—that they’re the winners, whether they’re American or Mexican or Canadian or what have you. And that’s the real issue…So, that it’s not so much about Americans versus workers in other countries, but it’s workers in both countries, or every country, who are in a struggle with the owners of the businesses.”

“Trade deals are rules agreed upon by many parties. One problem is that who is at the table shaping those rules? And I personally, Rodney North, would say that too often it’s shaped by money, not shaped by people. These rules are shaped by lobbyists and therefore it’s not the average person in either country who’s winning. It’s, rather, like, the party of money.”


Fairtrade America

Fairtrade America’s Blog

“Free” can be Good, but Fair is Better (Fairtrade America blog post)

World Fairtrade Challenge

National Cooperative Business Association

May 12, 2016


The Next Frontier in Community Energy

In This Episode:

01:39 Introduction of Alex DiGiorgio.
01:57 Alex describes what Marin Clean Energy is.
03:45 What is Community Choice Aggregation, and how does it work?
06:53 Do the consumers get to choose the mix of energy that they’re receiving?
09:17 How many different choices do consumers have?
10:33 What is the price difference between the lowest option and the highest option?
12:17 Can the cost be lowered if more people join the CCA?
13:52 How is MCE doing with their opt-out rates?
15:14 Who is the opposition?
16:00 How widely spread is Community Choice Aggregation (in California)?
17:30 Is there anything outside of California that is comparable to the CCA concept?
18:22 Alex explains the success of sourcing alternative renewable energy at a lower price.
21:18 Alex shares how a CCA impacts low-income communities and how it creates more equitable outcomes.
24:57 Will the Clean Energy Incentive Program help make CCAs available everywhere?
27:24 Alex shares how listeners can learn more about CCAs.
28:50 Alex shares one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
29:46 Alex describes the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
30:10 Alex explains what the energy field in California looks like 30 years from now.


As MCE Clean Energy (MCE)'s Community Development Manager, Alex DiGiorgio collaborates with stakeholders throughout MCE’s service area to advance sustainable development and expand access to competitively-priced renewable energy. By cultivating partnerships with residents, businesses, local leaders, and community groups, Alex helps MCE customers determine which resources they wish to support through their electricity purchases. Alex received his law degree from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, where he earned certificates of specialization in energy regulation and environmental law.


MCE’s mission is to address climate change by reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy supply and energy efficiency at stable and competitive rates for customers while providing local economic and workforce benefits.

MCE makes it possible for you to take advantage of cleaner energy that’s better for the environment without doing anything at all. When you sign up for PG&E service in Marin County, unincorporated Napa County or the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Richmond and San Pablo, you are automatically enrolled in our standard Light Green 50% renewable energy program, which comes from sources like solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal, and small hydroelectric. Or, you can sign up for Deep Green 100% renewable energy from Green-e Energy certified, non-polluting sources. PG&E will continue to deliver your energy through their standard power lines, and their repair and maintenance teams in the familiar blue trucks still provide the same reliable service you’re used to — rain or shine.

Take Away Quotes:

“Community-choice programs allow cities and counties to join together and then offer an alternative energy-supply portfolio to all of the electricity consumers within their jurisdiction. That’s really what CCA is: it’s the public option for energy administered at the local level.”

“If CCA’s can keep their opt-out rates low—and better yet, if they can get their opt-up rates high—then…that should help to both stabilize rates and reduce them.”

“Community-choice programs—and some of these are called something different. They’re sometimes called municipal-choice programs, but they’re essentially the same thing. They’re often operated very similarly.—They’ve been operating in other states, about five or six other states, since the 1990s.”

“With a CCA, there are no shareholders to whom we have to pay a dividend, so we can take what would have otherwise gone to shareholder profits and reinvest those in other ways, either developing more renewable energy supply or piloting new programs in innovative policies or giving it back to the rate base in the form of lower rates.”


Episode 004: Renewable Energy and Taking Control of Your Future – In this episode, we speak with Richmond, CA Mayor Tom Butt about renewable energy in the City of Richmond and the role MCE Clean Energy has played in bringing sustainable energy and economic benefits to the community.

MCE Clean Energy website

Learn more about Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) and AB 117 on the Local Government Commission’s website

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Fact Sheet funded by California Energy Commission and Department of Energy prepared by the Local Government Commission

Local Energy Aggregation Network

Sonoma Clean Power


May 5, 2016


Reducing Single-Occupancy-Vehicle Commuting

In This Episode:

01:13 Introduction of Steve Raney.
01:59 What is Joint Venture Silicon Valley?
02:45 Steve explains the goals of the Bay Area Mobility as a Service project.
04:11 Why is it challenging to decrease single-occupancy-vehicle miles travelled in areas that were designed and built for single-occupancy vehicles?
05:13 Steve describes what congestion pricing is and why it’s important to reducing carbon emissions.
07:56 Steve shares what Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is and how it works.
09:34 Steve explains how the software on your smartphone would help you connect with different commuting options.
10:31 Where can people go to learn more about the Bay Area MaaS program as well as the concept of Maas?
12:10 Are there other industries working to combine compatible fields into one brand?
13:02 Steve describes the Bay Area Maas project.
15:47 How can MaaS be used to create more equitable commuting policies and conditions for low-wage workers?
18:27 Steve shares how he became involved in this work.
19:16 How can people learn more about Joint Venture Silicon Valley and Bay Area MaaS?
19:30 Steve shares one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
20:10 Steve describes the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
20:39 Steve explains what the San Francisco Bay Area looks like 30 years from now.
21:22 Steve shares his thoughts about the rise of Uber and Lyft.


Steve Raney leads Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Mobility as a Service project. Previously, Steve led autonomous vehicle commercialization studies for Nissan and Google and he led the EPA’s “Transforming Office Parks into Transit Villages” Study. He is the parent of MTC’s Climate Innovations grant program. Steve has 5 university degrees.

Learn more about Steve here


Established in 1993, Joint Venture Silicon Valley provides analysis and action on issues affecting our region's economy and quality of life. The organization brings together established and emerging leaders—from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community—to spotlight issues and work toward innovative solutions.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s umbrella term for our Silicon Valley commute-focused project to improve options besides driving alone. MaaS dissolves the boundaries between different transport modes, providing a more customer-centered, seamless experience while improving the efficiency of the entire transport system. Bay Area employers provide a range of customized employee programs to facilitate commuting: transit passes, Wi-Fi motor coach service, last mile shuttle buses from transit, payroll subsidies and more.

Take Away Quotes:

“We focus on difficult challenges, in areas like economic development, transportation, energy, communications infrastructure, hunger, and climate change; and I think we’re a pretty compassionate organization.”

“[The drive-as-you-go insurance] is one of the one’s that’s relatively viable politically. It’s not at all a tap-in putt in golf, but it’s something that is more worthwhile to pursue to get something enacted.”

“We’re trying to internalize the negative externalities of pollution and carbon and congestion and create a more efficiently functioning mobility market with better choices.”

“We know that higher-income workers are more likely to drive alone, so that kind of a policy is a progressive transfer of wealth from high-income folks to low-income folks. So that kind of policy scores relatively high for a congestion-pricing policy, whereas a big increase in a gas tax—because low-income folks, so much of their budget is taken up by transportation costs—that really hits them hard. So there are more compassionate pricing policies within the mix of congestion pricing.”


Joint Venture Silicon Valley – Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

EPA’s Final Report: Transforming Office Parks into Transit Villages