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Talent plans to drop fossil fuels

Talent Energy Efficiency Coordinator Michael Hoch is busy these days answering questions about the city’s clean energy action plan. In November Talent became the first city in Oregon to include such a document in its city’s comprehensive plan, a set of guidelines for development required by state law.

Hoch’s research has found no other city in Oregon that has a clean energy plan as an element of its comprehensive plan. Rianna Koppel, a citizen who helped create the plan, reported her research found the same.

“Several cities and counties have contacted me directly,” said Hoch. They are seeking everything from basic nuts and bolts information on how the plan got created and incorporated ... to more detailed information.

While in Klamath Falls Friday for a training session, Hoch met with residents there who are interested in getting clean energy components into their comprehensive plans.

Besides Klamath Falls, Hoch has received inquiries from cities in the Columbia Gorge, including Hood River, and from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, which includes three Oregon and two Washington counties.

Among plan goals for Talent is achievement of 100% independence from fossil fuel sources by 2030 to help combat climate change.

City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Nov. 20 that amended the comprehensive plan to include the clean energy element. Talent’s Planning Commission had recommended adopting the element.

With support from Rogue Climate, a group of Talent residents started work on the plan following an October 2015 envisioning workshop. Volunteers worked for more than 1,000 hours to create a plan that became Talent Clean Energy Action Plan 2018-2030.

“When we started this plan, a big focus was climate change ... and to step away from fossil fuels and come up with a plan B or C,” said Ray Sanchez-Pescodor, who participated in the plan development from the start. “We also wanted it to make common sense financially. The suggestions we are making make good financial sense, some in the short term and especially in the longterm.”

The element is a basis for policy and not policy itself, said Community Development Director Zac Moody. But it spells out potential implementation strategies in a number of areas, including transportation, housing, energy efficiency, conservation, city facilities, education, the economy, infrastructure and energy generation.

While work was done for plan adoption, the city and groups also focused on acquiring clean energy installations for Talent. That has included solar panels for the Community Center, an EV charging station and work with Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, which led to $149,000 in grants for solar installations at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production building, Jackson County Fire District No. 5 headquarters and the downtown civic center campus.

The latest clean energy upgrade for the city will bring four EV charging stations to city-owned property behind Camelot Theatre on Seiber Street. Pacific Power awarded a grant of up to $10,000 to assist with the project. While the city will purchase and install the stations, they will be operated by a commercial charging company.

Hoch helps coordinate the energy projects and is involved in other efficiency efforts, such as a LED light bulb give away that took place last spring. He monitors energy consumption and reports that energy use in city facilities is on track to achieve a 30% reduction in use by 2020 compared to 2015.

One element of the plan calls for a feasibility analysis on a transition from the current investor-owned utility model to a consumer-owned or community choice aggregation model. During the public hearing, Pacific Power General Business Manager Christina Kruger voiced concerns about that language.

“Pacific Power assets in this community are not for sale,” said Kruger. She said the firm applauds many parts of the plan and that some of the implementing strategies would require partnerships with Pacific Power and other entities such as Energy Trust of Oregon, with whom they work. She asked that language on creation of a city utility be dropped from the plan.

Council members and Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said that feasibility studies would be conducted prior to any decision on changing utility providers, but that it could create competition where none exists.

“It sort of lifts us out of the monopoly situation we are in and creates an opportunity for us that may motivate us all to work in a partnership way we haven’t before,” said Ayers-Flood.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy cityoftalent.org