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Cool Trees Score Energy Savings in Home of the Rose Bowl


Pasadena, California may be best known as the home of the Tournament of Roses, but it’s the trees, not the bushes, that are doing the coolest thing around these days — helping cut energy bills for homeowners in the community.

Under Pasadena Water and Power’s (PWP) Cool Trees Program, begun in 2002, homeowners who plant certain species of deciduous and evergreen trees on their property earn rebates of up to $50 a tree. As trees mature, they shade windows, walls and roofs, cooling buildings’ interiors. They release water vapor, cooling the air and buildings around them. In addition, an air conditioner shaded by a tree runs 10 to 15 percent more efficiently.

The rebate program was prompted by California’s statewide energy crisis, which began in the 1990s with skyrocketing rates and culminated with massive disruptions in 2001, according to Phyllis E. Currie, PWP General Manager, and John Hoffner, PWP Public Benefits Program Manager.

PWP worked with local arborists to select appropriate trees. The list includes trees that are California native species that would easily adjust to the local climate, require less water, grow more slowly and which tend to be sturdier. Ultimately, 37 species were selected.

“One of the bigger challenges was selecting the right trees,” Currie said. “We didn’t want to face a situation where we had power outages due to trees and limbs falling on power lines.”

Citizens interested in participating in the program are invited to attend workshops to learn about the best places to plant trees in order to enjoy their energy-saving benefits, and what types of trees to plant.

PWP promotes the program with additional assistance from the community’s mayor, Chamber of Commerce and local nurseries.

In its first five years, Currie estimates the program has led to the planting of approximately 500 new trees and stresses that other communities around the country have similarly successful tree-planting conservation initiatives.

“It’s popular everywhere it’s used,” Currie said. “After all, who doesn’t love trees?”

“I think our motto says it all,” Hoffner said. “Money doesn’t grow on trees. It’s made in the shade.”