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U.S. Cities go Renewable - article from Summer 2018 Challenge Magazine

July 3, 2018 4:50 PM
Originally published by Green Liberal Democrats

US City at night (GreenLibDems.org.uk)More than 70 US cities have adopted a 100 percent renewable electricity goal. That number has doubled over the last twelve months, courtesy of Donald Trump's determination to steer the nation in the opposite direct. Among the latest cities to sign up is one in the deep red south. Atlanta, Georgia has a population of 490,000 and is the largest city in the South. It hasn't set itself the most demanding of targets - the 2050 deadline is fifteen years further away than the politicians wanted - but the path they have chosen is for a homegrown energy transformation rather than relying on out of state wind power.

The city's Democrat mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms is clear about the need for action: "Cities must - and can - lead the way in accelerating this critical transition to clean and renewable energy sources," she wrote in a message that was included in the plan. "We not only have the capacity to act; it is morally incumbent that we do so." Much of the US lags far behind the nations of Europe. The Republicans dominate statewide politics in Georgia. Clean energy sources make up only 6 percent of the state's total electricity supply, a figure which will only rise to 7 percent over the next three to five years. That is why the administration in Atlanta have chosen to focus on locally produced renewable energy.

Nuclear power is not a primary area of focus, even though it is a low carbon energy source, because of concerns about the high water usage of nuclear power stations in a state that is already experiencing water shortages. Atlanta's plan also relies on boosting energy efficiency and rooftop solar PV, and calls for new ways to finance them. "Increasing energy efficiency and moving electricity generation towards renewable sources can reduce and avoid damage caused by dirty energy," the plan concludes. "The choices we make now can serve as a stimulus to advance equity, create jobs, improve public health, and slash Atlanta's contribution to climate change."

These words would not be considered radical or visionary in the EU but in the US - currently in the grip of Donald Trump and an National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) taken over by fossil fuel barons and climate change deniers - it is a relief to see cities and politicians engaging with the ambitions of the Paris Climate Accord.

The slow death of coal

There is no dignity in coal's demise in the US. While Donald Trump gurns for his fans in a Village People workers' hat, and West Virgina's Governor Jim Justice brazenly bribes power companies with offers of $15 for every ton of Eastern coal burned in a US power plant, the reality is that both natural gas and renewables are cheaper than coal. So coal is toast, and not before time