All electricity used in Atlanta to be generated from renewables by 2035, says Atlanta City Council

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new language about Georgia Power’s posture on renewable energy.

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council has resolved that all the electricity used in the city shall be generated through renewable resources by 2035. Advocates said the victory sets the stage for a push to bring the issue of clean energy for transportation into this year’s city elections.

solar roadway

Innovative methods of generating solar power include this roadway in front of the building. The roadis covered with non-skid solar panels in a technology intended to increase the productivity of paved surfaces by generating solar power. File/Credit: wattwaybycolas.com

The non-binding resolution introduced by Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall doesn’t mince words. Hall is an announced candidate for mayor in this year’s election. The resolution concludes:

  • “NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA, HEREBY RESOLVES, that One Hundred Percent (100%) of electricity consumed in the City of Atlanta shall be generated through renewable energy resources and associated technologies by 2035.”

The resolution defines renewable energy as, “energy derived from wind, solar, existing and low- impact hydroelectric, geothermal, biogas, and wave technology sources.” The council passed it by unanimous vote at its meeting Monday.

In a statement, Hall said:

  • “We know that moving to clean energy will create good jobs, clean up our air and water and lower our residents’ utility bills. We never thought we’d be away from landline phones or desktop computers, but today we carry our smart phones around and they’re more powerful than anything we used to have. We have to set an ambitious goal or we’re never going to get there.”
Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall

Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall

Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia, on Tuesday heralded the passage of the resolution. Gayer said transportation is the next target for environmentalists in Atlanta.

“Electricity is clearly half the pie, and the next is transportation,” Gayer said. “It’s the trickier part because, how do we get people out of their gas guzzlers?

“I think this will be something that we’ll certainly be looking for mayoral candidates and those running for the city council to address in the campaign,” Gayer said. “Transportation is something we’ll work on with the next administration.”

Hall’s legislation recognizes Georgia Power’s efforts to produce more electricity through renewable resources:

  • “WHEREAS, more than 24 percent of Georgia Power’s current electricity comes from emission-free energy production including nuclear and renewables, in which Georgia Power has become a recognized leader in bringing cost-effective solar and wind resources to our state….”

The local economy and environment will benefit from the effort, according to the resolution:

  • “[T]he City’s commitment to 100% clean energy will create good local jobs for Atlanta residents, reduce air pollution and associated public health risks, reduce the strain on water resources and save consumers money.”
Solar Facility, Southern and Turner Enterprises

Solar power is generated at this California facility where 80,000 solar modules have been installed by a venture that involves subsidiaries of Georgia Power’s parent, Southern Co., and Turner Enterprises. File/Credit: pvsolarreport.com

The legislation calls on Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability to complete, by January 2018, a report that sets priorities to create a priority list for addressing sustainability issues.

Topics of the study are to include weatherization, cogeneration, district heating and cooling, decentralized electricity generation and smart grids/microgrids, the use of industrial waste heat, building controls, automated lighting, solar-powered hot water heaters and programs that create an energy-saving culture, according to the statement.

Gayer said the only other city in the Southeast to have a similar vision is St. Petersburg, Fl.

Gayer noted that Environment Georgia convened a meeting at Georgia Tech in August 2016 to discuss the issue of 100 percent clean energy in Georgia. At that time, Environment Georgia released a position paper issued by its affiliate, Environment America, titled: We have the Power: 100 percent Renewable Energy for a Clean, Thriving America.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

13 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Empty rhetoric by ignorant politicians about a physical impossibility with current technology. Of course, now is the silly election season when politicians want voters to ignore their failings, such as over $750 million in rotted infrastructure they cannot replace and pensions underfunded by $1.5 billion.Report

    Reply
  2. EcoJohnThompson says:

    Throughout the ages, people of the day heard the sentiments of boneheads like Mr. Broch who snarled “steam engines are a waste of time, planes can’t fly and man will never get to the moon!” ‘Don’t know Broch, but I bet he has a long-time affiliation with Georgia Power Company or its parent firm. And I know he doesn’t know his solar capabilities. Not only can the City of Atlanta generate its electric power needs by the sun, wind and the flow of river water, so can every big city in the country. But it will take consumer demand to do it. Government can’t do it; too many Burroughston Brochs in the way. Consumers can do it by demanding rooftop solar and wind power in the marketplace. Consumers have the money. They rule. They just have to realize the power they hold. Great bold step forward Councilman Hall. Good on you–John Thompson, CDC Knight Journalism FellowReport

    Reply
    • Burroughston Broch says:

      @ Ecojohn Thompson
      Your assumptions are off base. I do not have nor have I ever had any relationship with Georgia Power or its parent Southern Company. I am a Georgia Power customer because I live in their service area. I have testified against Georgia Power in front of the Public Service Commission.
      For a 100% renewable power system to work, you must include distributed generation and energy storage because of the intermittent nature of wind and PV energy. The generation must be oversized because it must supply the load plus recharge the depleted energy storage. Think of a cold winter night with no wind, which is quite common. This will require a rebuild of the existing electrical distribution system; this will not occur by 2035 unless you propose to give Georgia Power a blank check. The City does not have this kind of money available, as I mentioned earlier.Report

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  3. EcoJohnThompson says:

    Dear Mr. Broch–Perhaps you know that a “100% renewable power system” is patently unnecessary to dramatically reduce the carbon, mercury, lead and other intolerable by-products of burned fossil fuel that cripple the ecological future of today’s children and the children they will later bear. Fossil fuel, reduced to back-up status by consumer demand for the benefits of electricity without the ecological destruction, will retain a place (as minimal as possible) in the best of non-polluting, low-polluting electricity systems. You seem not to know that (a) the Georgia Power Company electricity system is not the only one out there that works or that (b) the company could be reduced to a minor player in Atlanta’s energy future if it doesn’t start delivering its product more responsibly. Consumer pressure in enough intensity on state legislators for cleaner electricity will snuff the old Georgia Power business model. Yes, on-site (distributed) solar systems will happen just as soon as people get educated enough to know what’s in the children’s best-interest. You seem a good and earnest man; why not turn that recalcitrance into full-on support for a fine city’s plan to actually do something about preserving the environment?Report

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  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ EcoJohn Thompson
    Let me explain a few facts you don’t seem to realize:
    1. Georgia Power is a monopoly in its service area and is regulated by the State of Georgia. Georgia Power is not required to do anything for free.
    2. Georgia Power has an exclusive, long term franchise agreement with the City of Atlanta. Georgia Power is not required to do anything for free. The City cannot just kick Georgia Power out.
    3. Georgia Power has no generating facilities close to the City; the closest are a tiny hydroelectric plant on the Chattahoochee River near Roswell and a large coal-fired plant at Euharlee.
    4. If an electric system with only PV (solar) and wind energy is to provide continuous 24 hour service, the system must include substantial energy storage (batteries in today’s technology) to supply when the sun doesn’t shine and/or the wind doesn’t blow. The PV and wind generating capacity must be oversized to recharge the energy storage while supplying the consumer.
    5. The average cost for a 6kW PV system and accompanying energy storage is $18,000. This is far beyond the reach of many homeowners in the City.

    You say just put consumer pressure on state legislators. You have your green do-gooder blinders on. Whom do you expect to pay for these changes you propose? Georgia Power and their shareholders won’t pay. State government won’t pay. City of Atlanta government won’t pay. City of Atlanta residents must pay, and what you propose would perhaps triple their cost of electricity. That’s not what they want to hear.Report

    Reply
  5. EcoJohnThompson says:

    Mr. Broch–I am quite aware of the special legal status Georgia Power holds. That status was granted by an appreciative electorate in a long-ago time when “electrification” was enthusiastically embraced by everyone, there were no other options for getting it and science did not know how ecologically destructive fossil-fuel emissions would turn out to be. Today, knowing what science now knows, and given the far better options for electricity production and delivery now available, Georgia Power Company would be laughed out of the statehouse for even suggesting monopoly status. My point? We the people are not obliged to submit to a killing brand of electricity production. What the political system giveth, the political system can take away. You would call that naive and/or ignorant. But I can assure you, the very idea causes dread in the boardrooms of Georgia Power Company and Southern Company. The people who run those companies are smart and well-aware of the science behind their business model. The jigs up with that century-old technology, and they know it. They won’t change until the marketplace forces the issue, but that is closer, perhaps, than you might think. When environmentally-educated consumers start changing the thinking in the Georgia statehouse, look for the resident power company to move big-time into legitimate solar-and wind-generated electricity–of both the on-site (distributed) and grid-delivered variety. Why not? They can do it as well as anyone else. Society is at a pivotal point in human history. We can continue with what’s destroying the carrying capacity of the habitat-of-man or change. I, for one, am convinced that the status quo will fall apart just as soon as voters and ratepayers realize the danger to today’s children from the Georgia Power Company approach to electricity production. Clearly, you see no way out. I hope today’s last environmental saviors shrink from your assessment, and I believe they will.Report

    Reply
  6. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Ecojohn Thompson
    As a matter of record, the voters did not grant the status of any regulated monopoly.

    You seem to think that something will quickly become so once the voters want it. I remind you that political winds do not affect the laws of physics that you have thus far ignored.

    We shall see in 2035 whether the Atlanta City Council’s pipedream (a nonbinding resolution) will happen. I expect to be correct.Report

    Reply
  7. EcoJohnThompson says:

    As a matter of record, all politics–monopolies included–are a function of voters, whether they vote for a measure directly or put in place representatives who feel safe granting monopolies. I think a revolution of angry citizens bowls over all bad decisions. The laws of physics you reference escape you completely or you would be on my side scared to death with what people like you lobby to keep in place. At 75, I’m not going to be around in 2035. If you are around, you will have to proceed incognito to avoid a stoning by the young adults of the day. Good luck with thatReport

    Reply
  8. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ EcoJohn Thompson
    What a blowhard you are. I am a registered Professional Engineer with over 45 years of experience, and I consult with clients about renewable energy and microgrids. What is your professional technical experience?
    I agree that a revolution of angry citizens can bowl over bad decisions – that’s why we have President Trump instead of Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s third term.
    I will be around in 2035 to see the accuracy of my prediction,Report

    Reply
  9. EcoJohnThompson says:

    Blowhard… In another time, that would put you in a fistfight you could not win. “Engineers with over 45 years of experience” are, by and large, the very people that gave us “the solution to pollution is dilution” mantra that wrecked the carrying capacity of the biosphere. I stand with 2,000 of the best scientists in the world, most of whom would shout you off the stage. I knew there was a right-wing, bone-head, know-it-all behind that name from your very first comment. Good to flush you out into the light of day. I’m through talking with youReport

    Reply
  10. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ EcoJohn Thompson
    Judging by your comments, you couldn’t punch your way out of a wet paper bag.
    You write big but cannot technically justify anything you write. Obviously you hope others will shout me off the stage since you cannot. That smacks of the progressives who are in favor of free speech only if it complies with their views.
    Blowhard.Report

    Reply

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