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The LGBT Environment

Community Gets a Hand from PG&E

Like every community, San Francisco’s LGBT community has dealt with its share of problems, often with help from various non-profit organizations. Nowadays, with successful films like An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour sbringing an increased awareness to the global climate crisis, the environment has been added to what was an already long list of issues. As our community prepares to respond, it has found a new ally in PG&E.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company provides Northern California with most of its electricity. Once seen as a cold corporation with a virtual monopoly on energy, it has recently taken steps to present its customers with a clearer picture of both its programs and initiatives. Since the appointment of Peter Darbee as the CEO of the corporation, PG&E has been aggressively promoting a new “green” image.

The need to find sources of renewable energy like solar and wind power has spurred much of PG&E’s environmental drives. And we as a community have already begun to reap the benefits of this new initiative. Just this past January, PG&E and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center celebrated the revealing of a new state of the art solar energy system.

Located on Market Street, the SF LGBT Center has long been a beacon of San Francisco’s forward-thinking, inclusive nature. In keeping with its mission to provide health and educational services to LGBT people, this new solar project was designed to showcase how community members could benefit from solar installations like these, which are available for both residential and commercial properties.

The rooftop solar system is estimated to produce over 27,000 kW hours of renewable power without any greenhouse gas emissions. The Center will also be able to save $5,000 in annual energy costs. For a non-profit organization who sees most of its income from dwindling government contracts, that can only come as a relief.

The Center’s Executive Director Thom Lynch says, “The Center is honored to be the first chosen for this inspiring gift of solar panels…We are demonstrating that we are making intelligent choices with the money entrusted to us, and we are working hard to be an environmentally-friendly organization for other agencies to emulate.”

That was only the first of many community projects to come from PG&E and its $7.5 million dollar investment in a city-wide solar initiative. Earlier this month, another LGBT organization was able to follow the Center’s example when PG&E donated a new solar system to Project Open Hand.

Created in 1985 in response to the lack of services available for people infected with HIV, the majority of the non-profit’s funding comes from private donations. Recognizing the extra need, PG&E gifted Project Open Hand with 2 donations: one like the solar panel installed at the Center, expected to produce more than 30,000 kW hours of clean renewable energy with zero greenhouse gas emissions, and another solar thermal system, the first solar water heater system PG&E has ever donated.

This new thermal system will be able to heat 170,000 gallons of water per year and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by almost 2 million pounds in its lifetime. Altogether, the non-profit will be able to save $12,000 in costs and more than $600,000 over the system’s life. With PG&E’s donations, Project Open Hand can now serve an additional 6,700 home-delivered meals a year.

Project Open Hand’s Executive Director, Tom Nolan, has said, “As part of the Bay Area community, and of this planet we all share, I believe Project Open Hand has to do its part by using resources carefully and prudently, and - as much as possible - through reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources.”

All communities regardless of demographics are affected by one same environment and as a result, climate awareness should be a universal message. While there is no easy solution, the LGBT community, with special help from PG&E, has already proven itself up to be up the task. Current projects are still being drawn up and implemented. Just last week PG&E donated another $1.2 million to Habitat For Humanity. With such obvious aims to promote environmental awareness across all boards, we might well be on our way to an environmentally friendly community not just for gays and lesbians but for all.