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Decatur City Commission discusses clean energy plan

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Decatur City Commission discusses clean energy plan

Photo provided to Decaturish

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur has been developing a clean energy plan, and Energy and Sustainability Manager David Nifong provided an overview of the plan during a city commission work session on Monday, Aug. 15.

The Clean Energy Plan will help the city and the community transition away from fossil fuels and toward a resilient, renewable future, the city said in a previous Facebook post. The plan is supported by Southface Institute and Greenlink Analytics.

“This document, Decatur’s Clean Energy Plan, is intended to guide Decatur’s energy transition and address the city’s contributions to the climate crisis, while also improving living conditions and addressing equity issues,” the executive summary of the plan states. “This plan describes a path to a Clean Energy Future while facing an aggressive goal and conditions outside of Decatur’s control.”

When the city was working on the 2030 Strategic Plan, one of the themes that emerged was “the necessity for climate action and setting clean energy targets to have the city accountable and move the community to a clean energy future,” Nifong said.

The city is in the process of developing and refining the plan. The clean energy plan has been drafted and will soon go before the city commission for approval.

“Then the real work starts. We’re not approaching the finish line, we’re approaching the starting line, and I’m excited for that next step,” Nifong said.

Among the common themes from the survey, respondents think Decatur should be a leader when it comes to reducing the city’s impact on climate change, and the city should be transparent and engaging in their clean and renewable energy transition.

The clean energy goals set in the plan are:

– Municipal buildings will be supplied by 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030.

– The municipal fleet will be fully electrified and community buildings will be supplied by 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2035.

– All community uses, including transportation, will be supplied by 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050.

“We do recognize that these goals are ambitious. It will take a lot to achieve them,” Nifong said. “We also have to recognize that these goals are a lot more achievable today than a few weeks ago before the Inflation Reduction Act passed and those other levers that we can use to accomplish these goals came into fruition.”

The clean energy plan is divided into seven impact areas. The first impact area is leading by example, which is why the plan sets the municipal dates ahead of the community wide timeline for buildings and uses to supplied by clean and renewable energy.

The second impact area is building community through equitable investment. This includes the city creating a plan to equitably distribute the costs and benefits that come from transitioning to clean and renewable electricity, with a focus on removing financial barriers to energy efficiency, solar, and zero-emission transportation for low-income residents, the clean energy plan states.

This also includes expanding and advancing weatherization programs, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project and the Decatur Land Trust ReHAB program.

“The third, which is a big piece of that building community, is the concept of a community energy fund,” Nifong said. “That’s the concept of establishing a sustainable mechanism to support community projects with a focus on equity, and local workforce development.

The fourth impact area is greening the built environment, which includes taking advantage of building policies like building performance standards, zero-energy-ready building codes and benchmarking and transparency policies.

“One of the policy options for us to really drive energy efficiency improvements in our commercial, and residential building stock is looking at some sort of benchmarking and performance standards,” Nifong said. “These would be monitoring the actual performance of the building and setting some goals for those building managers and owners to improve their energy efficiency and reach some targets.”

The fifth is moving to low-and-no carbon transportation.

“Reducing the use of combustion engine vehicles and improving public transportation is a top priority of Decatur’s clean and renewable energy goals,” the plan states.

Nifong said the main driver of emissions in Decatur is transportation. The plan generally as the goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled, but also increasing trips taken by biking and walking.

“There are a few ways to do that, including improving first and last mile connectivity to our MARTA stations and other really popular destinations, continuing what we’ve been doing for 40 years since the 1982 Town Center Plan of densifying, making really walkable, livable, transit-oriented communities and developments,” Nifong said.

“The sixth, something that we’re already doing, [is] advocating for larger solutions at the state level, and then seven as a ‘final resort’ [is] closing that gap.”

In terms of closing the gap, unless Georgia Power makes the same commitments to transition away from fossil fuels, some electricity produced by coal and natural gas will be supplied to the city in 2035. To offset that, the city can invest in local renewable energy credits.

To read the draft clean energy plan, click here.

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