Published on December 11th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan0
“God’s Waiting Room” Targets 100% Renewable Electricity
December 11th, 2016 by Zachary Shahan
It’s sort of ironic that a city once nicknamed “God’s waiting room” is jumping to the front of the line when it comes to making this world better.
St. Petersburg, Florida, is ~45 minutes north of my home city, and it came as a big surprise to me that Tampa’s little sister is taking such a progressive stance on renewable energy. The city council actually unanimously voted to target 100% renewable electricity, which it aims to achieve with the help of some of the $1 million it received in a settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
The full details are not clear — we’re following up with the city for a deeper dive — but it seems this is not a 100% renewable energy target, as almost everyone is reporting, but rather a target to transition electricity 100% to renewable sources. In other words, it doesn’t seem to include transport, but I’ll be confirming via interviews with St. Petersburg staff or elected officials.
Additionally, I have not found a specific timeframe for this. 100% renewables by 2030? 2025? 2020?
In any case, St. Petersburg (or “St. Pete” as we in the area typically call it) is reportedly the 20th US city to target 100% renewables for its electricity supply. Clearly, this is something 2,000 more cities should do next week — why not? Alas, the clean electricity revolution doesn’t benefit from instant torque and it needs to pick up steam, but this is yet another inspirational story that I hope will inspire several more cities to target 100% renewables.
Of course, given that solar energy and wind energy are often cheaper than all other options, this is also a super easy goal for a city to set. Combine it with some solid EV charging infrastructure and electric bus purchases, and you are well on your way to being one of the first cities to genuinely reach 100% renewable energy.
Ready for 100
St. Pete’s move toward 100% renewable electricity is part of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which is “aimed at leveraging the power of cities to catalyze a national transition toward renewable energy.” Regarding the St. Pete decision, the Sierra Club summarizes:
In a unanimous vote, the City Council Committee of the Whole allocated $250K of BP Oil Spill settlement funds to an “Integrated Sustainability Action Plan” (ISAP), which will chart a roadmap to 100% clean, renewable energy in Saint Petersburg. In addition, the plan also incorporates components of a climate action plan, a resiliency plan and strategies for Saint Petersburg to achieve a 5 STAR Community rating. The 100% clean energy roadmap builds on Mayor Rick Kriseman’s Executive Order establishing a net-zero energy goal for the City earlier in 2016.
“Working towards 100% clean energy and zero waste will help ensure that St. Pete remains a ‘city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to live, work and play,” Saint Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (Dem.) stated.
“The movement for clean energy in cities and towns across the country is now more important than ever. Saint Petersburg joins 19 other cities from San Diego, California to Greensburg, Kansas that will lead the way to support equitable and inclusive communities built on 100% clean, renewable energy for all,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune added. “Whether you’re from a red state or blue state, clean energy works for everyone and local leaders will continue to move forward to create more jobs, stronger communities, and cleaner air and water.”
Emily Gorman, Campaign Manager for Suncoast Sierra Club’s Ready for 100% St. Pete, also chimed in: “This is a historic moment for St. Pete. We envision a city where families can raise their kids in communities free from toxic pollution, where everyone has the opportunity for a good job and access to healthy, affordable energy. The transition to 100% clean, renewable energy will ensure a more resilient, sustainable and equitable future for all our residents.”
Again, the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100% campaign materials and statements are often a bit confusing, since they are typically referring to 100% clean electricity — not transport as well. However, the Sierra Club is of course doing a great job promoting electric transport.
100% Renewable Energy = The Easiest Thing A Mayor & City Council Can Do To Look Good
As I noted above, solar energy and wind energy are typically the cheapest options for new electricity now. 100% renewables is practically a given. Advantages of solar and wind include the fact that they are wonderful local job creators and economy boosters as well, so aside from the green cred, policymakers can get an image boost from genuinely helping to create jobs and improve the local economy. Of course, many policymakers also simply want to help their community and the world, so the biggest benefit they receive may not be an “image boost” but simply feeling good about the work they’re doing.
It’s basically the same story for electric vehicles. Electric car benefits (30 or so by my count) make electric cars a better option for most consumers today. However, the vast majority of people don’t know that. Getting more residents into electric cars via test drive events, raising awareness and convenience via public EV charging programs, and implementing public EV procurement programs are great ways to look good and feel good by doing good.
The economic benefits are vast. The air & water & thus health benefits are vast. The climate benefits are critical. And there’s basically nothing to not love about 100% renewable energy.
Get on board, Tampa! Get on board, Miami! Get on board, Sarasota! Get on board, Orlando!
St. Pete Isn’t New To Cleantech
One of my mom’s favorite places for charging her Nissan LEAF is a fast-charging + Level 2 charging station in St. Pete because it’s powered by solar energy. St. Pete’s decent initial web of EV charging stations has made regional travel in my mom’s LEAF (which lives in Sarasota) quite easy — which quickly dispelled concerns about range anxiety.
For sure, the city could do much more, but it seems that’s what this new initiative will drive forward — hopefully both in terms of clean electricity generation and clean transport from that clean electricity.
So, one more time for now, thanks to St. Petersburg for being a leader. Maybe we can start calling you “Cleantech’s Installation Room” rather than “God’s Waiting Room” … but that might not be as catchy.