Lawrence City Commission indicates support for transition to 100% renewable energy

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016

City leaders have indicated they would like to commit to running on all renewable energy in the coming years.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission received a recommendation from the Sustainability Advisory Board to adopt a policy committing to 100% renewable energy for city operations and, ultimately, the entire community. The commission voted unanimously to direct city staff to draft an ordinance to achieve use of 100% renewable energy and subsequently develop a plan of action to achieve the goal.

Commissioner Lisa Larsen, who is a retired environmental geologist, said creating an ordinance would make a solid statement about the city’s goals for renewable energy.

“We’ve done proclamations throughout the years, we’ve done plans, we’ve done whatever policy,” Larsen said. “It’s time to put it to rest. And let’s do this.”

However, Larsen said she didn’t think the commission should be completely tied to the particulars of the SAB recommendation, and those details would need to be further discussed once the draft ordinance comes forward for review. Larsen also noted that municipal operations only account for about 3% of the energy that is used communitywide, according to SAB’s recommendation, and that ensuring that all the city’s energy comes from renewable sources was a “pretty lofty goal.” She noted that the recommendation states that only about 10% of Lawrence residents have voluntarily elected to use renewable energy sources.

SAB Chair Jackie Carroll responded that while getting more people to use renewable sources was one avenue, there would be other options, such as the city building its own wind or solar facilities and supplying the electricity.

Mayor Jennifer Ananda said the city has made a lot of statements about climate-related issues and it was time to take action. Other commissioners indicated they agreed. Commissioner Courtney Shipley said developing a timeline for the action plan and its goals would be important.

The SAB breaks its recommendation for the city’s clean energy goals into several steps. Initially, SAB recommends that the city use 100% renewable energy for the electricity needs of its municipal operations by 2025 and for electricity communitywide by 2035. By 2040, SAB recommends the city use 100% renewable energy for all sectors of its municipal operations, including electricity, heating and cooling and transportation. By 2050, SAB calls for the city to achieve the ultimate goal of using all renewable energy communitywide.

A memo to the commission regarding the recommendation states that the commission should identify a realistic implementation and transition plan to achieve the goals by the deadlines. The ordinance will come back to the commission at an upcoming meeting, and Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore said that plan could be part of the city’s upcoming update to the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. The city allocated $75,000 as part of its 2020 budget to update the plan, and the process is expected to get underway early next year.

In other business, the commission voted unanimously to issue a request for qualifications for an electric scooter pilot program. Once responses to the RFQ are received, the commission will decide whether to move forward with a pilot program. Specific regulations, such as whether the scooters will be allowed on sidewalks, streets or both, have not yet been finalized.

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