The Bellevue City Council agreed Monday to prepare and vote on a resolution that would establish renewable energy goals for the city, including a plan to transition the city’s fleet of vehicles and equipment to 100 percent electric power “as technologically and economically feasible” by 2035.
The decision marks a sharp turnaround in thinking since the November elections when Mayor Ned Burns and City Council incumbents Greg Cappel and Doug Brown said they would not be interested in changing city policy to address climate change.
Burns said in November that such “aspirational goals” would take a back seat because the city had no control over the generation of its energy supply. Cappel and Brown expressed similar sentiments.
Following a barrage of emails in support of clean energy goals prior to the Monday City Council meeting, the city leaders had a change of heart.
“I am fully in support of working toward clean energy,” Burns said Monday. “I just want to make sure this works for Bellevue in five years, 10 years and in 15 years.”
The clean energy goals, designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from city vehicles and buildings, were presented by Bellevue City Council Chair Kathryn Goldman and local environmental activists Scott Runkel and Susan Canham.
Goldman said the goals had already been adopted by Hailey, Ketchum and Blaine County. She said she has seen more emails in support of Bellevue’s action on climate change than for any other issue since she has been involved in local government.
“This is an opportunity to join our neighboring communities,” Goldman said. “We will be taking a leadership role if we do so.”
Possible resolution goals include going to 100 percent clean electricity community-wide by 2035 and 100 percent clean energy (including vehicles) by 2045. A resolution passed by Blaine County to meet the goals includes a focus on the use of wind, solar, geothermal and existing functional hydropower, and “any energy technologies that are carbon-free, equitable, and have a low environmental impact.”
Brown said he had “huge concerns” about the capital cost of transitioning to clean energy in 14 years. City Councilman Chris Johnson said he had “hesitation” about the goals, but offered to join a committee to help out.
“I don’t know about a battery operated snow plow by 2035,” Johnson said. “We are dealing with some populations that can hardly afford food.”
Goldman said the city needed to send a message to energy producers and vehicle manufacturers, and work toward greater energy self-sufficiency.
‘This isn’t just about our diesel trucks,” she said.
Runkel and others insisted that federal grant funding would become available to help the city meet its goals, and that joining the regional campaign with other jurisdictions would enhance all participants’ likelihood of success in getting grants, and of their collective bargaining power with utility companies.
“This would be a collaborative effort,” Runkel said. “Idaho Power already supplies 60 percent clean energy on the energy grid.”
The City Council agreed to instruct staff to write up a draft resolution that incorporates the clean energy goals for discussion at an upcoming meeting, the date of which is to be announced.