Quantcast
Energy
Pixabay

Atlanta Charts Difficult Path to 100 Percent Clean Energy

By Jeremy Deaton

At the start of 2017, just 22 cities had committed to sourcing all of their power from clean energy by 2050. As of this week, that number is 72. Since President Trump moved into the Oval Office and started ripping up federal climate policy, dozens of cities in conservative states have set ambitious goals for clean power, including Salt Lake City, St. Louis and Atlanta. Now for the hard part. These cities must chart a course to reaching their goal.


Atlanta recently laid out three options for hitting 100 percent clean energy. The document reveals two important facts. First, if Atlanta invests in new clean energy projects—as opposed to buying credits for clean energy generated out of state—it will see more jobs, smaller energy bills and less pollution. Second, if Atlanta wants to rely solely on locally sourced renewable power, it will need the help of the state legislature and the public service commission, both of which are controlled by Republicans, many of whom are wary of wind and solar. The proposals speak both to the promise of renewable power and to the limitations of local government. It will be hard to achieve 100 percent clean energy, but as former vice president Al Gore recently said, if Atlanta can do it, anybody can.

Officials listed the three proposals in increasing order of difficulty. The first calls for buying clean power credits from out-of-state wind farms to make up for power purchased from coal, gas and nuclear power plants. This option could be executed more quickly and cheaply than the other two, but it offers the smallest upside. In this scenario, Atlanta would support the development of clean energy, and thereby stem climate change, but it would not manage to shrink power bills, cut local pollution or create jobs for residents.

The energy mix in the first scenario. REC stands for "Renewable Energy Credits," while SREC stands for "Solar Renewable Energy Credits." City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Resilience

The second option calls for investing in solar energy and energy efficiency. Like the first scenario, it also requires buying clean power credits, some from out-of-state wind farms and some from in-state solar farms—assuming Georgia Power, the local utility, invests in solar power. This scenario boasts the highest cost-to-benefit ratio, meaning the greatest savings on electricity and healthcare per dollar spent on clean power.

The energy mix in the second scenario. REC stands for "Renewable Energy Credits," while SREC stands for "Solar Renewable Energy Credits." City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Resilience

The third option calls for going all in on clean energy, making big investments in rooftop solar arrays and community solar farms, in addition to making buildings more efficient. Even in this scenario, however, the city would rely in part on fossil fuels for power, and it would have to buy solar energy credits to reach its goal.

Overall, this proposal would yield the biggest returns. Officials say this option would create almost 8,000 jobs and produce nearly $12 billion in returns by slashing power bills and cutting pollution, thereby reducing healthcare costs. In this scenario, the city would also save 10 billion gallons of water that would otherwise be used in the operation of coal, gas and nuclear power plants—the largest water savings of any option.

The energy mix in the third scenario. REC stands for "Renewable Energy Credits," while SREC stands for "Solar Renewable Energy Credits." City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Resilience

If the officials want to pursue the second or third options, they will need the help of the Georgia Public Service Commission and the state legislature. The Public Service Commission, for example, would need to direct Georgia Power to build enough solar power in Georgia to satisfy Atlanta's aims, allowing the city to purchase clean energy credits that support local solar projects instead of distant wind projects.

"We recognize that we can't put all of the renewable energy in the city limits. So that means it's going to have to come from somewhere else," said Ted Terry, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club. "We don't want to be exporting our dollars to other states. No offense to Oklahoma, but we've got the energy resources right here in our state to power our state." Terry wants to see Atlanta source power from in-state solar arrays, "built by Georgia workers that will add value to the tax base of Georgia."

A solar array on the roof of the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Georgia Institute of Technology

The legislature could help by allowing solar owners to sell more of their power back to the grid or by creating a renewable portfolio standard, asserting the state must source a certain portion of its power from wind and solar. Terry said that a renewable portfolio standard is unlikely to pass the Republican-dominated legislature, but a tax credit for solar installations or energy efficiency upgrades just might. "The legislature is very politicized and ideological," Terry said.

Given the political hurdles, authors of the three proposals warned that trying to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2035 would likely result in the city "simply purchasing large amounts of renewable energy credits rather than achieving the goal through energy efficiency and in-state renewable generation." They urged the city council to aim for the more modest date of 2050, which would provide "a realistic timeline in which to achieve an equitable, affordable, and cost-effective 100 percent clean energy future."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Afdahe

As officials noted, the more power the city can generate locally, the greater the benefits for its poorest residents, who devote up to a 10 percent of their monthly income to electricity costs. "Energy equity was a huge deal—relieving the energy burden for people who are lower income," Terry said. Officials called for shrinking power bills and funding efficiency upgrades in the homes of low-income families. The right policies could radically cut the cost of power, which would be significant for families struggling to pay rent.

"This is not just a plan drafted in a vacuum at City Hall—our aim is to unlock the potential of Atlantans to take action to make our home more resilient to the shocks and stresses of a warming planet," wrote Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in an introductory letter. Bottoms described Atlanta's plan for clean energy as "a social contract to protect the health and welfare of its citizenry."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Business
The Overpass Light Brigade at Bascom Hall in Madison, Wisconsin on April 4, 2014. depthandtime / Flickr

Global Divestment Movement Celebrates Milestone: 1,000 Institutions With Nearly $8 Trillion in Assets Have Vowed to Ditch Fossil Fuels

By Jake Johnson

While the COP24 climate talks are at risk of ending without a concrete plan of action thanks in large part to the Trump administration's commitment to a dirty energy agenda, environmental groups on Thursday celebrated a major milestone in the global movement to take down the fossil fuel industry after the number of public and private institutions that have vowed to divest from oil, gas and coal companies surpassed 1,000.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

Slaughter-Free Lab Grown Steak Cast As Ethically Friendly Alternative

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—is often cast as an environmentally and ethically friendly alternative to raising traditional livestock.

These slaughter-free products aren't available on the market yet, but the dream is so enticing that Bill Gates, Richard Branson and even Tyson Foods—one of the country's largest meat companies—have made big bets on it.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Northeast National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Bob Wick / BLM

Trump Administration's Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale a 'Major Flop'

Despite the Trump administration's unrelenting quest to drill the Arctic, Wednesday's oil and gas lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) yielded a "disappointing" return of $1.5 million, E&E News reported.

Oil and gas giants ConocoPhillips, Emerald House and Nordaq Energy were the three companies that made uncontested bids on 16 tracts of land out of 254 tracts made available by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) annual sale in the western Arctic.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Dan Sedran

Environmental Changes Are Killing the Livelihood of Great Lakes Fishermen

By Corey Mintz

There's nothing in the fridge at Akiwenzie's Fish & More processing facility. The 918-square-foot building, adjacent to Natasha and Andrew Akiwenzie's house on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, sits empty and dark. Out-front, gill nets lie on the ground, unused for months.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Fire in Yellowstone National Park. Mike Lewelling / NPS Climate Change Response

Poll: Most Americans Believe in Human-Made Climate Change, But a Shocking Number Still Don't

First the good news. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll out Thursday found that 57 percent of U.S. adults think climate change is caused by "human activity" or "mostly human activity"—a stance held by 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists. That's up from the 47 percent in 2012.

The bad news? That implies 43 percent of U.S. adults still have doubts about the global phenomenon, similar to President Donald Trump.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Greta Thunberg and her father Svante at a press conference during COP24 on Dec. 4. JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP / Getty Images

'We Need to Act Now': 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike

By Andrea Germanos

Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish activist, on Wednesday called for a global climate strike. The day of action is set for Friday at "your school" or "anywhere you feel called."

Thunberg, who's made headlines for her now-weekly school strikes to urge her home country to take bold climate action, made the call from Katowice, Poland, where she's attending the COP24 climate talks, now in their second week.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Whale Shark. NOAA

Arabian Sea Sharks May be the Most Threatened in the World

By Joshua Learn

Sharks, rays and chimaeras are some of the most threatened fish in the world. More than 50 percent of species in the Arabian Sea are at elevated risk of extinction due to coastal development, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction. According to an expansive new study, spanning more than a dozen countries, species like sawfish are particularly hard hit with extinction or local extirpation.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

18 Cookbooks for Building a Diverse and Just Food System

By Danielle Nierenberg and Natalie Quathamer

For a delicious end to 2018, Food Tank is highlighting 18 cookbooks that embrace a diverse global food industry. The list features chefs of color and authors that identify as LGBTQ+ working to feed a food revolution that breaks the barriers of race, gender, and sexuality. These books examine everything from building Puerto Rican flavors, conquering the art of transforming leftovers into masterpieces, and grasping what merging queer culture and international cuisine looks—and tastes—like. Whether you cook seasonally, are on a budget, or eat plant-based, there's something here to inspire every reader to diversify their diet!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!