Downtown Decatur. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

By David Pendered

Decatur on Thursday is to conclude its series of three virtual roundtable discussions that are central to the city’s effort to adopt and implement a clean energy plan.

The subject of Thursday’s session is “The Built Environment.” This public gathering is the last one scheduled before the city is slated to host its Public Integrated Planning Forum, on March 8 and March 9.

Topics of two previous roundtables included “Clean Energy and Economy,” in January, and “Community and Equity,” in November. The format includes presentations by local subject-matter experts, followed by question-and-answer sessions. The webinars were recorded.

Decatur’s proposed Clean Energy Plan is a component of the city’s “Destination 2030” plan. The 10-year guide is intended to serve as a single planning document that’s to combine the city’s Strategic Plan, Comprehensive Plan and efforts related to the Livable Centers Initiative. The LCI is a program of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The city is collaborating with Southface Institute and Greenlink Analytics to evaluate the city’s existing energy footprint and plan for the future. Greenlink is providing its Greenlink Equity Map and Process Guide, at no cost to users, to provide a ZIP code-based report on equity issues related to the utility burden in Decatur.

One example of the conversation about the city’s energy footprint unfolded at the Jan. 19 event on “Clean Energy and Economy.” The figure discussed dovetailed with information provided at a subsequent tour of the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, located at Georgia Tech.

In January, presenters displayed the results of a study showing Decatur’s residential buildings represent 51 percent of the city’s energy demand. These buildings produce 17 percent less CO2e emissions than commercial buildings.

In February, the tour of the Kendeda Building highlighted design and construction techniques that can vastly reduce a building’s energy footprint. Kendeda’s sustainability components include a tight building envelope, which prevents air exchange with the outdoor atmosphere when it’s not desired; an efficient system for managing thermal comfort, and an on-site solar array.

At the start of the effort to devise its Clean Energy Plan, Decatur cited definitions of clean energy used in other cities. Examples of clean energy include wind, solar and efficiency. Clean energy does not include natural gas, biomass, nuclear and coal, according to these definitions.

Two of the disavowed energy sources remain moving targets in the global effort to prevent global warming.

Nuclear was endorsed as an acceptable alternative to coal by the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who spoke during COP26, the United Nations climate summit in November 2021 in Glasgow. IAEA is in the U.N. system and promotes the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Natural gas has been portrayed as a bridge fuel because its combustion emits fewer greenhouse gases than does coal. Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, pending before Georgia’s Public Service Commission, outlines a growing reliance on fossil gas to reduce carbon emissions.

In a contrary view on these two fuels, the European Commission’s Platform on Sustainable Finance reported in January that natural gas and nuclear should not be deemed environmentally sustainable. The report rejects premises on the sustainability of nuclear and fossil gas contained in a document the EC approved Feb. 2. Upon final approval, the EC document is to set terms for finance and investments in the continent’s efforts to implement the European Green Deal.

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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...

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