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Metro Council To Vote On 100 Percent Clean Energy Resolution

Solar Panels on the Mall St. Matthews on December 12, 2019.
Solar Panels on the Mall St. Matthews on December 12, 2019.

The Louisville Metro Parks and Sustainability Committee passed a resolution Wednesday to transition the city to 100 percent clean electricity by 2030.

Louisville is one of more than 150 U.S. cities already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount agreed on in the Paris Accords — 80 percent by 2050, but Wednesday’s vote is a first step toward accelerating that goal.

The subcommittee approved the resolution on a 4-2 vote with council members Marilyn Parker and James Peden voting against the measure. The full Metro Council is expected to vote on it Thursday.

The resolution urges Louisville to transition city operations to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, 100 percent clean energy by 2035 (including electricity and natural gas), and 100 percent clean energy throughout the community by 2040.

It also calls for revised building codes that incorporate energy efficiency and conservation, and prioritizes public participation in decision making.

As a resolution, the measure is non-binding and could be ignored, but the council members have so far taken the resolution seriously, asking for presentations from Louisville Gas and Electric and cities like Cincinnati, who have already achieved 100 percent renewable energy for city operations.

The vote follows a year and a half of deliberations and a grassroots efforts that's included billboards and yard signs. The Renewable Energy Alliance of Louisville both drafted the resolution and has advocated for its passage.

“It feels wonderful, it really does,” said Sam Avery, speaking on behalf of the Renewable Energy Alliance of Louisville.

The alliance is simply acting on recommendations laid out by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he said.

“Ninety-one scientists from 40 countries around the world have already told us that we only have 30 years to eliminate all forms of fossil fuel combustion, all oil, all coal and all natural gas,” Avery said.

Speaking before the committee on Wednesday, Develop Louisville Director Jeff O’Brien said Mayor Greg Fischer and the administration are in support of “bold goals around climate action.” Last September, Fischer declared a climate emergency for the city.

However, O’Brien said the city still needs to understand the costs, savings and benefits of the transition to renewable energy.

That process begins with an energy audit to look at the city’s energy consumption and identify ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies, he said. Additionally, O'Brien hopes to use the savings identified in the audit to hire an energy manager to oversee the city’s consumption of power and energy billings.

“Where do we stand on the resolution? We are supportive of the resolution. We recognize the need for a bold goal and that’s what we see this as being,” O’Brien said.

Overall, the city still has its work cut out for it. Louisville emitted about 21 million tons of carbon equivalent in 2016 — that’s the same as burning 278,000 tanker trucks worth of gasoline.

About 99 percent of Louisville’s power comes from Louisville Gas & Electric burning fossil fuels. About two-thirds of LG&E’s generating capacity comes from coal, and another third comes from natural gas.

If the resolution passes, Louisville will join more than 150 cities around the country that have committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy, according to the Sierra Club.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.