On June 13th 2017 the Asheville City Councilors passed a resolution supporting a State goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050, or sooner, in all energy sectors. It references the Stanford and UC Berkley study lead by Dr. Marc Jacobson, that concluded the US energy supply could be based entirely on renewable energy by 2050 and 80% by 2030 using current technologies while creating green jobs. The resolution acknowledges the inordinate impact of fossil fuel use on communities of color who are often more likely to be exposed to pollution and suffer cancer and asthma.
A version of the same resolution has already been passed in the Towns of Sylva, NC and Boone, NC and in Watauga County, NC. Asheville is the first city to pass the resolution representing the largest population in NC to support the resolution.
The Asheville version of the resolution was edited by members of the City’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE) who added two points. First, the importance of protecting our forests which help to reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. Second, recognition that the City of Asheville is working with Buncombe County and Duke Energy to avoid or delay construction of the proposed 190-MW “peaker” plant.
The resolution is based on House Resolution 540 introduced to Congress in 2015 by Rep. Grijalva and Rep. Ellison. It was written by a team of climate scientists and energy policy experts headed by Joel R. Segal who now is Executive Director of the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition (NCCSC). Segal, a former senior legislative assistant to Rep. John Conyers, worked on climate change and universal health with Rep. Conyers for many years, and coauthored several House Bills and Resolutions on universal health care and climate change.
The North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition is working closely with Members of Congress, state legislators, and local elected officials in NC and across the nation, along with other climate action leaders, to encourage elected officials to introduce these 100% Renewable Energy Resolutions. “We are trying to send a clear message to Congress, President Trump, EPA Director Pruitt, and local and state elected officials that we have a climate and a poverty emergency, and we the people want action now!” states Segal.
Asheville based grassroots nonprofit Community Roots is a member of the NCCSC and has been working with City Councilors, County Commissioners, members of SACCE and the Environmental Innovation Task Force (EITF) to move both the City and County to 100% renewable. “This is a great step, we are fully in support of the City of Asheville passing this resolution” says Kat Houghton PhD, a Community Roots Board Member, “and now we need to give it some teeth. The City and County need to commit to this goal and begin taking actionable steps toward implementation so we can avoid, or at least lessen, climate catastrophe.” Brownie Newman, Chairman of the Buncombe County Commissioners has introduced a proposal to commit the entire County to 100% renewable in 25 years. This will be voted on by the County Commissioners in August.
Tyler Garrison, a Community Roots board member, local business owner and Asheville Community Rights project co-lead, stated “if we are going to reach this goal then one of two things needs to happen. Either Duke Energy stops plans to build two new gas-fired plants and invests instead in renewable energy or we break Duke’s monopoly on electricity production in North Carolina allowing citizens to choose where their energy comes from. The current legal structure in NC allows the rights of corporations to be put above the rights of the people of Asheville.” Community Roots is planning a lake-based protest outside the Duke Energy coal plant on July 4th highlighting the fact that the barrier to reaching 100% renewable energy in North Carolina is not one of technology, it is the lack of Independence from Duke Energy.