By Dan Everett May 10, 2020
How much will it cost Athens to transform to 100% renewable energy? It is commonly assumed that moving to 100% will be either impossibly expensive, or just so expensive that our local economy will be ruined. In fact, we believe that Athens will economically benefit from the transition, if we do it right.
Our best evidence for this belief comes from the public description of the Atlanta 100% plan, available at http://www.100atl.com/. The Atlanta plan considers different scenarios, based on the extent to which Atlanta chooses to push every possible opportunity to generate its own renewable energy, as opposed to buying Renewable Energy Credits from external sources. In the most cost-effective of these scenarios, Atlanta gains $11 for each dollar of expenses by the city.
We are currently unable to see the details of how they calculated this very attractive number. The data analysis firm GreenLink, which built the cost model, has also been engaged by the ACC Office of Sustainability to build the cost model for Athens. A principal investigator for GreenLink assures me that we will be able to see the details of the Athens model. In the meantime, here are some of the possible sources of these gains:
● Energy efficiency improvements in residences and commercial and government buildings; ● Solar energy from privately owned solar panels; ● Solar energy purchased as Renewable Energy Credits, whose cost should be lower than the rates charged by Georgia Power; ● Lower healthcare expenses due to reduced pollution from coal-fired power plants and better indoor air quality; ● Income from new local jobs installing solar panels and performing energy and water usage efficiency upgrades on local businesses and residences.
The bottom line: we have work to do. Some of these possible gains have already begun. County buildings are becoming more energy efficient, and our two Solarize Athens programs have resulted in 150 new solar panel installations. To get to 100%, Athens needs to put in place new financing structures and new policies to encourage renewables and efficiency. There will be many opportunities for the citizens of the Classic City to play a part as well. We will have more to say about these in future postings.