Atlanta seeking to push back its clean energy goals

By Maria Saporta

Back in May 2017, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously for the city to transition to 100 percent clean energy for municipal operations by 2025 and 100 percent clean energy for the entire city by 2035.

Now the city is saying – “Not so fast.”

The Atlanta City Council will consider a resolution by its Utilities Committee to push back those deadlines to 2035 for municipal operations and for the entire city by 2050.

Keisa Lance Bottoms, Stephanie Stuckey, Otis Rolley and Kisha Powell

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, then-Resilience director Stephanie Stuckey, Rockefeller Foundation’s Otis Rolley and Watershed Commissioner Kisha Powell Park Pride event in March at(Photo by Maria Saporta)

The Mayor’s Office of Resilience had done a cost-benefit analysis of the available avenues to achieve the city’s initial goals, and it would have provided a significant financial burden on the city and its residents to meet the 2025 and 2015 deadlines.

“The original deadline of 2025 and 2035 will be very costly to impose and require a considerable amount of RECs (Renewable Energy Credits),” said Stephanie Stuckey, who stepped down as the director of the Office of Resilience on May 31.

Stuckey, in a text exchange, then added that the environmental community supports the revised deadlines.

She said it was not a setback because the issue of equity is a key component, and the costs to purchase the necessary renewable energy credits would cost tens of millions of dollars.

“The original resolution was poorly drafted without real input from our office,” Stuckey said. “We would have never promoted such unrealistic and costly deadlines.”

The original legislation had been introduced by then-City Councilmember Kwanza Hall, who was running for mayor at the time. The move received considerable attention in the national media.

“We know that moving to clean energy will create good jobs, clean up our air and water and lower our residents’ utility bills,” Hall said in a statement in 2017. “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.”

Stuckey, however, said the goal was too ambitious. The city’s current energy portfolio has less than 2 percent coming from solar energy.

new councilmembers

Four of the new Atlanta City Councilmembers elected last November: (L-R) Amir Farokhi, Matt Westmoreland, J.P. Matzigkeit and Jennifer Ide (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“And we’re dependent upon Georgia power’s energy mix which limits our options,” Stuckey said. “Very few cities have such aggressive deadlines. The new recommendations are in keeping with other major cities with investor owned utilities and similar regulatory structures.”

Then Stuckey added that the new deadlines still represent “very strongcommitment.” It’s just that the dates “have shifted slightly.”

The new resolution is on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Utilities Committee.

Atlanta City Councilman Matt Westmoreland, elected last November, will weigh the new proposal, he said on Sunday.

“I was proud last Spring when our city set ambitious goals for transitioning toward running entirely on renewable energy sources,” Westmoreland said. “I’m curious to hear from the administration about why we would revise these goals just a year later. I look forward to continuing our work to ensure Atlanta is a leader in this work and in building a resilient and sustainable City for future generations.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

4 replies
  1. Chris Johnston says:

    Typical Atlanta City behavior. Pick a stretch issue involving lots of expense, take the bows and praise from sycophants, then kick the issue down the road so current officeholders won’t be burdened with implementing it.Report

    Reply
  2. Jeannie Ericson (@CJEricson) says:

    Most important sentence in the piece “And we’re dependent upon Georgia power’s energy mix which limits our options,” Isn’t this a free market? I guess we can just wait on the nuclear power plant to solve all our “clean” energy challenges. Renewables will never grow at a competitive pace until business (and government) take bold action and help drive the cost down by large investment. I guess this is another missed opportunity. I thought the city had it right for once.Report

    Reply
  3. Steve Leeds says:

    One really needs to dig deep on the extent the use of RECs are necessary to achieve these type goals to see how much progress is being made by the City toward achieving clean energy use. Instead of buying our way to clean energy by buying RECs let’s really invest in clean energy delivery for City use.Report

    Reply

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