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Decatur City Commission adopts clean energy plan

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Decatur City Commission adopts clean energy plan

Decatur City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its Sept. 26 meeting, adopted the clean energy plan, which sets goals for the city to transition away from fossil fuels and toward a resilient, renewable future.

“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, climate action became a top priority.

“This is a process that began really in earnest during the formation of the [2030] strategic plan,” Energy and Sustainability Manager David Nifong said. “The Decatur community made it known that climate action is one of their top priorities. With that, one of the action items included in the plan, which [the city commission] adopted in October 2021, was establishing clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets.”

Commissioner Kelly Walsh added that the timing and scale of the plan is right for the current moment.

“We have a bold strategic plan for 10 years, and I don’t know how we can credibly say we can achieve the goals of the strategic plan without having this to underpin it,” Walsh said.

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.

“I do have to say that these goals are ambitious, but they are achievable,” Nifong said. “I believe they get more achievable every day. It is going to require a total community mobilization. It is going to take everybody to make this happen, but everybody will show up in different ways.”

The city worked with Southface Institute, Greenlink Analytics and the Center for Transportation and the Environment. The process saw a variety of public engagement activities and a data-driven approach from Greenlink Analytics.

“They use an industry-leading tool called the advanced clean energy scenario tool, which modeled Decatur’s energy system and determined the cost and benefits of a certain array of actions we can take as a community to get us to 100% clean and renewable energy,” Nifong said.

As the clean energy plan is implemented, the city will have to determine how to best put the plan into action.

Mayor Patti Garrett said she hopes the city will invest in energy efficiency improvements, weatherization programs, and items like community solar before the city purchases renewable energy credits, “because I think that, as a whole, really benefits our specific community and helps with the equity piece as well. We still have a lot of weatherization and energy efficiency needs that need to be addressed.”

A few items in the fiscal year 2022-2023 budget will give the city a starting point in implementing the plan, Nifong said.

“One is continuing to consider an energy savings performance contract and continuing to evaluate a possible solar energy procurement agreement,” Nifong said.

Over the next few months, city staff will work to get the city into a position to start making decisions during the next fiscal year budget process.

“There are ways for us to meet our municipal goals with minimal impact on the budget, there are ways to finance these systems, energy efficiency improvements over time that kind of reduce those really high upfront costs that we are seeing and continue to see,” Nifong said.

A solar energy procurement agreement allows a third party to install a clean energy system on a property and sell the energy to the property owner. Rather than buying energy from a utility, the property owner would purchase the energy from the third party, Nifong said.

“There are some other things, like fleet electrification, that remains to be seen a little bit,” Nifong said. “We do think that through 2035 electrifying all of our light and medium duty vehicles is certainly within reason. If you look at a 10-year usable life for those vehicles, and we have about 180 vehicles, that would mean replacing 18 vehicles every year. ”

In the near future, Nifong will be focused on educating residents about the offers and rebates Georgia Power provides, such as rebates for LED lighting and more efficient heating and cooling systems. Commissioner George Dusenbury also encouraged residents to weatherproof their homes and plant trees.

To read the clean energy plan, click here.

In other business, the board also established a project budget of $260,000 and awarded a contract to the Savannah College of Art and Design for $160,000, as well as awarded a $100,000 contract to StoryCorps Studios for the bicentennial 200 stories project.

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