Here’s How Clean Energy Tech Will Power Atlanta Into the Next Decade

Here’s How Clean Energy Tech Will Power Atlanta Into the Next Decade

By Dave Kostiuk

Also known as renewable energy, “clean energy” comes from sources that cause little to no pollution or gas emissions, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biogas and wave tech forces such as tidal energy.

The City of Atlanta recently became the 27th city in the nation to commit to 100 percent utilization of clean energy technology in the near future. On May 1 of this year, the City Council passed the resolution, committing the city to a full conversion by 2035, with all city facilities powered “clean” by 2025. The action plan is scheduled to be completed by January 2018 per the City of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability.

It all started fairly recently, on August 3, 2016, when Jenette Gayer, Director at Environment Georgia, and Anthony Coker, VP of Market Development at Hannah Solar, co-hosted a “lunch and learn” at Georgia Tech with professors Dr. Marilyn Brown (Public Policy) and Dr. Bert Bras (Mechanical Engineering). Approximately 100 policy makers and nonprofit leaders attended.

“As far as I know, it was the first broaching of the topic in Georgia,” Geyer recalls. “We just had a conversation asking, if we do 100 percent clean energy, what does that look like? I like to think that’s what kicked off the push for clean energy in Atlanta.”

Anne Blair, Director of Clean Fuels at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), particularly credits Gayer as “one of the drivers behind the original organizing.” In fact, proactive steps toward a 100 percent transition to clean energy came to fruition quickly.

“It moved pretty rapidly because it was [Spring] 2017 when the legislation was drafted, then heard and passed,” Blair says. She and Gayer were among those whom testified on behalf of 100 percent clean energy in response to the City Council’s request for public comment.

Colleen Kiernan, Policy Director for the office of District 2 City Councilman Kwanza Hall, wrote the policy legislation in April of 2017.

“I have had the good fortune of previously serving as Director of the Georgia chapter of [the] Sierra Club, and former colleagues shared some good models for me to use,” Kiernan says. “I wrote it in one weekend, introduced it on a Monday, and it went to committee the following week. It was passed by the full Council two weeks later. It was as fast as legislation could possibly move in the city of Atlanta. I think there was an interest in stepping up and doing our part.”

Kiernan also explains that RFPs (requests for proposals) frequently show that renewables are preferable to conventional utility sources in terms of price. “Often, you see a wind project beating out natural gas in terms of cost,” she offers as an example.

According to Blair, many companies will be part of the process. “There’s a lot of folks who are active,” she says. 

In addition, the process will bring positive results for the community in the form of employment opportunities. Since the specifics of the plan will not be known until it is completed after the new year, exact job numbers are not yet available. Nevertheless, as Kiernan explains, Atlanta’s current use of clean energy is at about two percent, accounting for approximately four thousand jobs. A rise toward 100 percent has the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs.

“The good news is a lot of those jobs would be local,” Gayer adds. “You can’t outsource someone switching out all the lightbulbs at a school or installing solar panels at City Hall. A lot of the jobs will be in town.”

Jobs, sustainability and innovation? Sounds good to us.