City commits to 100% renewable energy by 2032

Moab is now the third Utah city to officially commit to a complete transition to renewable energy. The Moab City Council, by a 4-0 vote, approved a resolution Feb. 14 that commits the city to ambitious renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions goals. Park City and Salt Lake City have made similar commitments.

Approximately 90 people showed up for the city council meeting, many wearing yellow and black or sporting stickers reading, “Ready for 100%.” When the resolution passed, the crowd applauded.

The resolution commits the city to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and a 50 percent reduction by 2032, based on a 2018 community emissions baseline. The resolution also commits to a 100 percent renewable community electric supply by 2032, 100 percent renewable energy for municipal operations by 2027 and 50 percent municipal renewable energy by 2024.

Council member Kalen Jones spoke in favor of the resolution.

“There is scientific consensus regarding the reality of climate change, especially the contribution of fossil fuels to warming of the climate,” said Jones. “In addition to rising temperatures, the changes to our weather systems, extreme weather events and other disturbances will threaten our economy and welfare of our citizens. We can join a national movement of local governments … to facilitate the transition of our town and society to renewable energy sources, sources that are increasingly affordable, support local economies and protect the air quality that we and our visitors enjoy.”

Jones also emphasized the importance of local initiatives.

“Cities like Moab are small enough to be nimble, but big enough to make a difference,” he said.

Council member Rani Derasary thanked the community for its support and engagement with the issue. She said she received 54 emails and three or four letters, and the council received a letter of support signed by 20 businesses in town.

“I know some people in the community have concerns …,” Derasary said. “In Utah the prices are going down for wind and solar energy, and we’re trying to take advantage of that.”

“We take this seriously because we know if we pass it, we’re responsible for making sure something actually comes out of it,” Derasary added. “I would just ask that everybody who’s been supportive, hold our feet to the fire and if we aren’t here, remind the people sitting up here … to keep this thing moving along.”

She also said that city budget commitments to a sustainability staff person and solar panels showed the city’s commitment to sustainability.

Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison also endorsed the resolution.

“This is the first green-powered community in the nation recognized by the EPA, and I think that’s something you should all be proud of … This is the next step and I think it’s a worthwhile step,” Sakrison said. “It’s probably not going to happen overnight but it’s a goal worth pursuing not only for us, but those who come after us.”

Earlier in the meeting, Moab resident Kelly Green said he opposes the renewable energy resolution.

“I would not be in favor of going 100 percent solar, unless you can show that it’s financially viable,” said Green.

He pointed out that solar panels are not zero-impact and require copper, petroleum and silicone products.

“My main concern as a citizen is what is it going to cost me? Who’s going to pay for it?” Green said. “I hope it’s not the citizens. I hope you really look at it hard and say, it’s still cheaper to have electricity. It’s still cheaper to use natural gas.”

Nationally, 23 cities have committed to transitioning to all renewable energy, according to the Sierra Club. The group sent emails encouraging residents to attend the Moab meeting in support of the renewable energy resolution.

“Our new president may be a denier of the science behind climate change, but we who live in Moab know better,” Sierra Club Utah chapter chairman and Moab resident Marc Thomas wrote in a statement on the Sierra Club website. “We are grateful that by transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy, our community is not only protecting the health and well-being of its residents, but also ensuring that a livable environment will be part of its future.”

On Wednesday morning, a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Moab City Hall celebrated the completion of new 63-kilowatt solar panels installed at City Hall. The solar panels expand on the previous 38-kilowatt array already installed on the building, according to the Rocky Mountain Power website. All but one city building now has solar panels, city officials have said.

City council member Heila Ershadi was not in attendance at the Feb. 14 meeting.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent