Environment Politics

At the first of two Metro Council committee meetings to discuss 100 percent renewable energy for the city, environmental advocates stressed the need to act while representatives of Louisville Gas & Electric emphasized the practical considerations of achieving the goals laid out in the resolution.

The Louisville Metro Parks and Sustainability committee held its first discussion Thursday on a proposed resolution to support a 100 percent clean energy goal for the city.

Nancy Givens, who spoke on behalf of groups pushing the resolution, compared humanity’s future to that of the Titanic. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that humanity must transition to renewable energy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, she said.

“Metaphorically speaking we are on the Titanic. Not heeding the future, but heading for serious environmental disruption and possibly catastrophe,” Givens said.

But David Sinclair with Louisville Gas & Electric brought up a number of practical hurdles the city would have to take into consideration if it decides to adopt the resolution.

For example, if the city were to produce renewable energy from within the county, it would take 20 percent of the entire land in Jefferson County to meet the city’s needs with solar and 90 percent with wind power, Sinclair said.

The Resolution

The resolution includes multiple requests in support of a more equitable renewable energy future, but here are its two primary goals:

“Metro Council supports (1) a 100% clean energy goal for Louisville Metro operations by 2030 and for the entire community by 2035; and (2) the revision of all building codes for new construction to require energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy applications, toward an eventual goal of net zero or net positive energy, water and waste for Louisville Metro.”

The legislation also calls on the Metro Council to prioritize energy efficiency and conservation projects, oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and include the resolution’s goals in the city’s upcoming Climate Action Plan.

The resolution is not binding and would not mandate action to achieve the goals laid out in the text.

It also does not include specifics about how the city should define city operations. Sinclair questioned if the opposition to fossil fuel projects would include new gas stations, or airport extensions.

“So the question is in 2035, are those homes and industries going to be able to use natural gas?” he asked.

Even representatives of Develop Louisville, which includes the city’s Office of Sustainability, refused to answer whether or not the office supports the resolution.

“So is that a hem-haw around ‘I’m not answering’ or is that a ‘without further amendments the answer is no?’”  Committee member James Peden asked Develop Louisville’s Jeff O’Brien.

“I think without further discussion with both sides of the issue, I think I’m not going to be able to answer that question right here, right now,” O’Brien said.

Community Response

The Metro Council received approximately 40 letters in support of the resolution, many hand-written. Tyler Park resident Lisa Markowitz urged the Metro Council search for renewable energy solutions in addition to restoring the city’s tree canopy and increasing city recycling and composting programs.

“I am writing as a Louisville resident (Tyler Park) horrified & frightened by climate change, which as this summer’s beastly heat makes clear, is here now,” she wrote.

Recent reports from the United Nations and the federal government have made clear that climate change presents an urgent threat to the planet that will only get worse if we do not act quickly.

In Kentucky, the warming planet will fuel more frequent heavy rainstorms as well as heatwaves and droughts. It will alter natural ecosystems, burden Louisville’s aging sewers and floodwalls and increase risks to public health.

Last year 99 percent of the electricity delivered to Louisville residents from Louisville Gas & Electric came from fossil fuels, according to the resolution.

The Parks and Sustainability committee is scheduled to continue discussing the resolution at its next meeting, which is on December 13.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.