Money or Environment – What is Motivating US Cities to Switch to Renewable Power?
Anna Hunt, Staff Writer
Austin Texas is known for its music scene, eclectic populace, and technology innovation. Just north of this thriving metropolis is where you will find Georgetown, which committed to rely solely on renewable energy within just two years. This is quite a lofty goal considering the town has a population of 54000, making it one of the largest municipalities in the US working towards reaching 100% renewable power in such a short term. Earlier this year, Burlington, Vermont, the largest city of the state with 45000 residents, set the example by becoming the first city in the US to meet its residents’ electricity needs via renewable power sources, including newer wind and solar farms, as well as older hydroelectric power plants.
Georgetown, Texas, is a couple of years behind with its plan to begin delivering renewable power in 2016. The town, which was an integral part of the Texas oil boom, has agreed to purchase power from a 150MW solar power plant run by SunEdison and from a wind power project run by EDF currently under construction in the Texas panhandle. By using both types of renewable power, the town’s utilities provider hopes to meet daily energy demand peaks, as well as fill power demand “when the sun isn’t shining.”
“Georgetown Utility Services isn’t required to buy solar or other renewables – we did so because it will save on electricity costs and decrease our water usage. This power purchase agreement makes Georgetown Utility Systems one of the largest municipal utilities in the nation to be 100 percent renewable powered. It also provides a hedge against future fuel and regulatory risks.” ~ Jim Briggs, Georetown’s general manager of utilities
Georgetown is expected to be one of the first of many cities around the country to turn to renewables. Although policy makers, power cooperatives and electricity providers realize the environmental impact of our dependence on fossil fuels, purchasing renewable power is typically a decision based on economics. Luckily, the prices of solar panels have fallen more than 63% since 2010 and wind power equipment has seen a similar cost decline. For example, in Vermont, the power provider Burlington Electric expects the city to save $20 million over the next 20 years.
Over the next few years, we can expect to see a growing trend as electricity suppliers start to add to the overall renewable supply throughout the US in an effort to offer more affordable power, by investing in new wind and solar farms. In addition to large centralized plants, either outsourced to third-parties or built directly by the utility, electricity providers are also looking to distributed sources such as rooftop installations at residents’ homes and businesses.
What has been accomplished in Burlington and what is unfolding in Georgetown can be replicated anywhere. Although the power service providers differ from one municipality to another, the efforts to convert to more renewable power has been statewide. “Nearly 30 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories have adopted renewable energy portfolio standards during the past decade, while several others have established goals.” We can only hope that prices of renewable energy equipment continue to decline at a pace that will motivate the suppliers of US power services to make a more rapid switch towards 100% renewable power statewide.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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