MAYORS AND GOVERNORS
HOLDING FRONT LINE IN CLEAN ENERGY USE
by Sue Santarcangelo
Two of the messages that came through loud and clear at the ninth National Clean Energy Summit held in Las Vegas in October were, state and local governments are leading the promotion of sustainable and renewable energy, and there are no red or blue politics in saving the green.
Mayor Dale Ross of Georgetown, Texas is one of the highest profile supporters of alternate energy and sustainable development in the country. He appeared in National Geographic’s documentary, From the Ashes, and in Al Gore’s environmental update, An Inconvenient Sequel. Re-elected by 72% of Georgetown voters in May 2017, he is leading his city to become the first in Texas to be powered by 100% renewable energy. “We are red. Very, very red. … However, in Georgetown we’re fact-based decision makers.” To him, choosing clean energy policy “… was just a math problem.”
Georgetown’s power is provided by a city-owned utility. When evaluating future fuel supplies, the city council found that natural gas companies would only provide 7-year, Solar developers offered 20-year, plus once the facility was paid for, the fuel was free. Hoping to avoid future regulations on fossil fuel supplies, the council put “silly national partisan politics aside” and went solar. Georgetown efforts now include electrical charging stations for vehicles, single-stream recycling, and composting instead of landfill. Ross insisted it is a “quality of life issue” impacting jobs, parks, schools, and a city-wide bus system. “You win the economic argument, you win by default.”
Other mayors on the panel agreed. Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Arizona noted his city was the “least sustainable city on the planet.” To remedy that, they are implementing alternate transportation plans, including bike trails and light rail, have changed 100,000 street lights to LEDs, and have installed 32 megawatts of sustainable power, generating thousands of jobs in the process. In partnership with ASU, they are turning the city’s transfer station into an incubator to spur innovation on how to keep reusable materials out of the landfill. Stanton explained that the key is recognizing the available resources and applying them with “long term leadership.”
In Carmel, Indiana, Mayor James Brainard says they are focusing on ways to reduce the use of automobiles. “[The] most important thing we can do is think about city design so the average person can walk or take a very short drive.” They have constructed 110 roundabouts, increasing safety and saving huge amounts of fuel because “people don’t have to sit and idle at street signals.” Brainard’s Republican friends accuse him of “siding with Al Gore,” but he cites a long list of Republican presidents, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, who have supported environmental-friendly institutions and regulations. “It is really a non-partisan issue, and as Republicans, we have to keep making that an issue.”
Mayors are not alone. Governors have also been in the race for the last ten years, setting statewide goals and making huge strides to meet them. Nevada is one of the country’s major solar energy producers, and Governor Brian Sandoval, who co-hosted the summit, has supported Nevada’s “electric highways initiative” to build electric charging stations from Reno to Las Vegas with future plans to ultimately “electrify” all Nevada roads.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker outlined how his state has been rated number one in efficiency for seven consecutive years. Programs to reduce their carbon footprint include, development of offshore wind, an aggressive energy efficiency program, mitigation of issues to ensure all levels of government work together to be resilient and find ways to move away from fossil fuels. An example of success is the completion of 75,000 solar projects while providing 105,000 jobs.
Governor David Ige of Hawaii appeared by Skype, saving time and fuel. He outlined Hawaii’s commitment to a 100% clean-energy economy. He explained that five years ago 95% of energy delivered on the islands came from imported fossil fuel. Today, 23% of the state’s power is provided by renewables, creating thousands of new energy related jobs.
Hawaii is also a leader in the use of electric vehicles. It has initiatives for charging stations in parking lots over a certain size, and is considering ways to make electric vehicles more affordable to all Hawaiians. Ige adds that because of the size of the islands, “[There is] no range anxiety except for the island of Hawaii.”
The cities and states represented at the summit are only a few of the growing number taking on clean energy initiatives. In Nevada and Utah, local municipalities and the state governments are moving to promote more clean energy resources. A few examples are the City of Las Vegas which is committed to 100% renewables, and three Utah cities, Moab, Salt Lake City, and Park City, with similar commitments.