WHATCOM BUSINESS ALLIANCE NEWS UPDATE
City of Bellingham Passes Clean Energy Measure Industry warnings about costs, reliability overruled, by Brett Bonner, WBA Public Policy Director
The Bellingham City Council has decided to move the city toward 100% renewable electricity, heating and transportation by 2035.
The Council voted Monday night (5/7/18) in favor of a resolution that energy industry representatives say could cost consumers and businesses millions of dollars in extra expenses. While saying they support the renewable ambitions, energy officials asked the council to first determine if such lofty ambitions are technologically feasibility and at what cost—before setting target dates for implementation.
Under the resolution’s aims, Bellingham municipal facilities would use 100% renewable energy in just 12-years. The same target date has been set for the entire Bellingham community’s electrical supply. By 2035, the Council wants 100% renewable energy for all heating and transportation in the city.
The measure creates a 12-member “Community and Staff Climate Action Plan Task Force”, which is to determine the feasibility, costs and impacts of the 100% renewable energy ambition.
Energy company representatives are guaranteed just one seat at the “Task Force” table. The rest of the board will consist of up to six members of City of Bellingham staff and one representative from public transportation, with the balance being of up to six community representatives with experience in “renewable energy, energy conservation, land use, energy/resource economics, community engagement, transportation or finance.”
Energy industry officials say that renewable energy ambitions are not technologically achievable at this point in time and could create serious reliability issues. They also say the costs could hit the elderly and low-income families particularly hard.
A similar measure was proposed at the state level during the last legislative session; lawmakers determined not enough information was known and decided not to vote. Legislators agreed to consider a committee to study energy goals.