Atlanta City Council seeks more time to review clean energy plan

The city of Atlanta’s clean energy plan, published last week, is yet to be adopted by the city council. Council members Tuesday held off a decision on the plan’s passage, requiring more time to review the content of the plan aimed at transforming the entire Atlanta community into a 100 percent clean energy city by 2050. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

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The city of Atlanta’s clean energy plan, published last week, is yet to be adopted by the city council. Council members Tuesday held off a decision on the plan’s passage, requiring more time to review the content of the plan aimed at transforming the entire Atlanta community into a 100 percent clean energy city by 2050. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

The Atlanta City Council Tuesday put on hold a plan aimed at setting a pathway for the city’s clean energy goals. Council members asked for more time to review the plan and the analysis that went into developing it.

The Clean Energy Atlanta plan aimed at creating a roadmap for the transformation of City of Atlanta government facilities into a 100 percent clean energy by 2035 with the ultimate goal of turning the entire Atlanta community to clean energy by 2050, had been presented to the city utilities committee for review and adoption.

“The primary reason that it was put on hold was really that council members wanted to learn more about it and have additional information,” said a spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office of Resilience, which is tasked with executing the plan.

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The office is now planning meetings with individual council members to address their concerns about the plan.

Under the plan, all government facilities such as office buildings, recreation centers, fire stations, detention centers, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, water treatment plants, police precincts, warehouses, and parking garages will be powered with 100 percent solar or other forms of clean energy such as wind, geothermal and biomass.

The plan will again be presented to the utilities committee during a scheduled meeting next month.

Last year, the city of Atlanta becaome the 27th city in the country to commit to clean energy after the city council unanimously passed a resolution submitted by council member Kwanza Hall, setting the city's clean energy deadlines for 2025 for municipal operations and 2035 for citywide operations.

That led to the drafting of the city’s clean energy plan publicized last week. The plan now seeks to modify the initial deadlines to ensure they are “achievable.”

“This adjustment of target dates does not impact the short-term strategies and approaches referenced in this Plan; it gives City departments, partners, and stakeholders a more realistic timeline to not only achieve these goals, but to achieve them in a truly equitable, beneficial manner,” the office of resilience noted on the city’s plan.

According to the Interim Chief Resilience Officer Cicely Garrett, the plan entails long and short term goals aimed at ensuring city buildings are energy efficient, carbon emissions are lowered, the city’s renewable energy options are evaluated and all city residents have access to lower utility bills.

Clean energy advocates support the city’s efforts, as Atlanta leads other cities in the southeast in setting clean energy goals.

Kassie Rohrbach the Deputy Director at Ready for 100, an organization that works with cities across the country that are transitioning towards 100 percent clean energy sees Atlanta’s plan as a leading expample in the shift toward clean energy.

“By creating this plan, Atlanta shows it is a national leader in the transition to a 100% clean energy future,” said Rohrbach.

The city’s clean energy goals-the first in the state- follow similar efforts nationwide, which have seen 65 cities, five counties and one state adopting 100 percent clean energy goals.

“The Georgia Public Service Commission and the state legislature, in coordination with Georgia Power, now need to listen to their constituents and adopt policies and regulations that enable this transition to renewable energy, while maximizing in-state clean energy generation, regardless of whether the timeline is 2035 or 2050,” added Rohrbach.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Georgia has no Renewable Portfolio Standards, which call for increased production of energy from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass, present in states like California. The state however has energy standards for public buildings and solar easement regulations.

According to the plan, citywide efforts to transition to clean energy should not be abandoned in the absence of supportive federal policies.

“It is our goal to show that we can still achieve ambitious clean energy targets through community engagement, collaborative partnerships with Georgia Power and large energy consumers, and innovative financing,” the plan reads.

If adopted, Atlanta's Clean Energy plan will pave the way for the creation of policies and implementation of the city's clean energy goals to meet the energy needs of the city's growing population expected to hit 1.2 million by 2035.

Currently, clean energy provides only 6 percent of the city’s energy needs.

A key component of the plan aims to ensure equity in the provision of clean energy options to the city’s under-served communities burdened by high energy costs.

“Overall it’s part of the mayor’s progressive agenda for Atlanta to be affordable, equitable and resilient,” said Garrett.

Close to 360,000 Atlanta city residents live in ZIP codes where the average household spends a higher percentage of their income on electricity bills than the national average.

“The fact that the plan is focused on energy efficiency and improving the affordability of energy shows that its trying to be more accessible to low income communities,” added Stephanie Steinbrecher, Media Coordinator, Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign.

The city's efforts on clean energy come in the backdrop a growing shift towards solar in the state with the latest reports from the Solar Foundation showing Georgia grew its solar job numbers last year despite a nationwide tank in the industry.

  • Georgia Power provides nearly all of the city's energy needs.
  • Commercial buildings in Atlanta use up 60 percent of the city's electricity.
  • In the early 2000s the city passed an ordinance requiring new city buildings to be energy efficient.
  • Atlanta was the first city in the southeast to implement community-wide energy efficiency programs
  • "In 2010, power generation was responsible for 40 percent of freshwater withdrawals in Georgia. To meet Atlanta's 2018 electricity demands, 2.2 billion gallons of water will be consumed, and 32 billion gallons of water will be withdrawn from Georgia's waterways. This will exceed Atlanta's direct use of water by more than 10 percent."

Source: Mayor’s Office of Resilience Clean Energy plan.

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