Atlanta Passes 100% Clean Energy Resolutions for 2025, 2035 (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, May 02, 2017, the City Council of Atlanta unanimously adopted a resolution that creates two clean energy goals for the City of Atlanta – one to power all electricity in City-owned buildings with clean energy by 2025, and another to power all electricity in the City with clean energy by 2035.
The vote was fourteen to zero, with Councilman Ivory Lee Young (District 3) not voting.
As a resolution, the legislation, 17-R-3510, expresses the policy vision of the City Council; however, it does not have the effect of mandate.
Having a goal is still an important first step, the bill’s author, Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2) said in a statement.
“We have to set an ambitious goal or we’re never going to get there,” Hall said.
The City of Atlanta has been slow to implement the use of solar panels on City-owned properties, even as there has been an uptick in solar use in recent years, as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News.
Setting this ambitious goal could help accelerate the City’s implementation of more solar panels over the coming years, especially as the price of solar technology has continued to dramatically decrease.
The resolution further calls upon the City’s Office of Sustainability to prepare a report by January 2018 regarding how the City of Atlanta can meet these goals; and the Office has agreed to do the analysis.
“We know that moving to clean energy will create good jobs, clean up our air and water, and lower our residents’ utility bills,” Councilman Hall said.
“We never thought we’d be away from landline phones or desktop computers, but today we carry our smartphones around and they’re more powerful than anything we used to have,” Hall said.
Hall’s legislative aide Colleen Kiernan–formerly of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club–provided research and drafting.
The move to introduce the resolution came conspicuously after Hall, who is running for Mayor of Atlanta, was criticized for making comments at a Republican Party Mayoral forum in Buckhead that he was “kind of bit a conspiracy theorist” regarding climate change.
“I got a question mark on the global warming thing. I do believe in sustainability. I’m a science-minded person and I have a science background. But stuff is in the media too much … it’s hard for me to be convinced sometimes,” he said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.
Atlanta is now the largest city in the U.S. Southeast with a one hundred percent clean electricity goal, according to Environment Georgia. St. Petersburg, Florida, is the only other city in the Southeast with a similar goal.
Twenty-five U.S. cities, including San Diego, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Chicago, Illinois have already adopted ambitious one hundred percent clean energy goals, the legislation states.
Six U.S. cities, including Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg, Kansas; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rockport, Missouri have already hit their targets to generate one hundred percent of the energy used community-wide from clean, non-polluting and renewable sources.
To be sure, the City of Atlanta is in a franchise agreement with Georgia Power; and as previously reported by APN, Georgia Power has been quite slow to add solar and wind energy to its total energy mix. Georgia Power continues to rely on dirty coal and the questionable boondoggle that is nuclear power at Plant Vogtle.
Therefore, the City’s approach will likely have to involve a combination of incentives for customers to get more of their energy off of the Georgia Power grid, as well as partnerships with Georgia Power to develop a clean energy capacity that would offset Atlanta’s energy usage..
That is, with respect to the 2035 goal, the City, of course, does not have control over whether its residents and businesses continue to get their energy from Georgia Power, or pursue one of many clean energy solutions that the City might develop for Atlanta residents and business.
Partnering with Georgia Power is key, Kiernan tells APN.
“The City of Atlanta has a franchise agreement with Georgia Power that goes through the 2060’s, so no matter what, we’re stuck with them for the foreseeable future. There’s no divorcing Georgia Power,” Kiernan said.
“We can’t control which electrons go in the City of Atlanta limit. I think we will have to make it so that Georgia Power is producing enough renewable energy at any moment of the day to cover what it being demanded in the City of Atlanta in 2035,” Kiernan said.
When asked whether the City could produce all the energy its residents and businesses need through solar projects, Kiernan said “it could be enough.”
“But we might need to figure out the arrangement that are enough green kilowatts being created at any given time – rather than every electron is a clean electron,” Kiernan said.
Georgia Power did not immediately respond to a request for comment. APN spoke with a Georgia Power spokesperson a few hours before publication.
Clean energy is defined in the legislation as energy derived from wind, solar, existing and low-impact hydroelectric, geothermal, biogas, and wave technology source.
The legislation directs the Office of Sustainability to prioritize least expensive options such a weatherization, co-generation, district heating and cooling, decentralized electricity generation and smart grids/micro-grids, the use of industrial waste heat, building controls, automated lighting, solar-powered hot water heaters, and programs that create an energy-saving culture.
It creates a strong equity framework for the plan, which will allow those who have the least to be able to benefit.
UPDATE 1: Updated with interview with Colleen Kiernan, and with attempt to reach Georgia Power.