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Council Corner: Don't politicize city's climate and energy plan

One of my early Council Corner columns was on the Climate and Energy Action Plan being undertaken by the city. The task was to develop, (taken from the city website) “a climate change and energy action plan intended to identify existing and potential vulnerabilities and develop an organized and prioritized set of actions to protect people and resources from the ongoing impacts of climate change. The plan shall include targets and strategies for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Ashland. These targets and strategies may be short- mid- or long-term, and shall consider cost, feasibility, community acceptance and likelihood of success, with an emphasis on voluntary measures that can be undertaken by different sectors of the community. The plan shall include specific, measurable actions that citizens and local institutions can undertake immediately upon adoption of the plan.”

When I wrote the column, one of my closing comments was that we needed this to work and it would if politics were kept out of it. I still feel strongly about keeping the politics out of it if the plan is to be successful. The plan needs to be a technically based document based on the best science available and not on politics, personal agendas and emotions.

Currently, there is an outside push to circumvent the hard work of the Climate and Energy group and put a requirement on the city to produce (not acquire) 10 percent of its electricity locally. No long- or short-term impact studies, no feasibility study, no looking at required rate increases or other associated costs to residents, no look at carbon reduction — currently, approximately 2-4 percent of Ashland electricity is from fossil fuel sources. Just a mandate for Ashland to produce 10 percent by 2020, less than four years away.

Should Ashland produce its own electricity? We do to a small extent, maybe 1 percent in the form of hydro and small rooftop solar. These small amounts are easily absorbed into the grid without too much difficulty. Large quantities of solar and other variable and intermittent sources of power are much more difficult. The managers of the electric grid systems have been working to incorporate these for years. To accommodate these, there need to be markets for surplus and sources when the supply is inadequate. We will still be buying power from BPA — just maybe not under the favorable terms we currently see — and, hopefully, will be able to sell the surplus at a reasonable rate of return.

Another question might be where to locate this electric production? Does the city buy property? Do we replace housing or businesses or farmland for this? Much has been said of the Imperatrice property, owned by the city but in the Pacific Power service area, with no direct electrical connection to the city of Ashland. How far will we go and what are willing to pay for those 2 megawatts of electricity? And what will it get us?

I still believe these questions are best answered by the committee formed to look at these issues and more in a comprehensive way. The committee is a very strong group and has the best future for Ashland in mind in its deliberations. It should not be unduly constrained when it evaluates energy options for the citizens Ashland and should be allowed to complete its assigned tasks without political interference. Let them keep up their good work.

Mike Morris is a member of the Ashland City Council.