Norman continues to strive for 100% renewable energy

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Solar panels are shown at the OEC solar farm off Interstate 35.

The City of Norman is continuing to strive for a community with completely renewable energy.

The City Council passed a resolution on May 22, 2018 to transition to 100% clean energy in the form of wind, solar, energy efficiency measures and other renewable sources within the electricity sector by 2035 and all energy-use sectors, including heating and transportation, by 2050.

The Norman Ready for 100 policy committee has a timeline and set priorities for the upcoming year.

The group wants to make sure OG&E adds enough new renewable energy to its system so Norman can move forward with its commitment to renewables.

The OG&E franchise agreement includes the plan for adding this renewable energy to the grid.

The committee also wants to raise the efficiency standards in the city's building codes to 2015 levels.

"This is a community-wide transition -- not just for municipally owned buildings and vehicles," said Adrienne Gautier, co-coordinator for Ready for 100 Norman. "Right now, the Ready for 100 coalition is working hard on the first steps towards implementation."

Ready for 100% is a national Sierra Club campaign.

According to the Sierra Club's website, Norman is the only Oklahoma city to make the commitment to 100% clean energy. Across the United States, 133 cities have made the commitment, up from 69 cities when Norman committed to the pledge in 2018. Six cities have reached that goal so far.

Gautier said Tulsa, Edmond and Stillwater also have active campaigns that are moving towards securing that commitment from their city councils.

City Manager Darrel Pyle said the council has several elements moving towards achieving Ready 100, including a renewed franchise agreement with OG&E. OG&E is pledging to not buy any existing coal-fire power plants and not build any new coal fire power plants.

Being careful the agreement with OG&E is key, Gautier said, along with supporting any upcoming legislation that is trying to open up the market for solar energy. She said there are several things that could be done statewide, including more equitable third-party leasing and net metering regulation that is more reasonable for customers.

"Oklahoma is way behind the times with this, and the solar market would get a real boost if we could pass business-friendly legislation for the solar industry," Gautier said. "Now is the time to ask your city council members for a fair and renewable friendly OG&E franchise agreement."

She said the city has also committed to hiring a sustainability staff person who will most likely help the Ready for 100 coalition.

The council learned through conversations with OG&E officials that the city currently consumes about 10 mega watts of electricity to power all of the cities facilities, Pyle said. He estimates that the energy consumption will be in the 13 mega watt range after new facilities are added to the city's footprint.

OG&E serves about 843,000 customers, and Pyle said Norman has about 49,000 of those customers.

"I think each one of our council members is committed to moving to 100% renewable energy portfolio," Pyle said. "Solar is a wonderful component, but it is a component to a total renewable portfolio that would include other renewable sources such as digester, wind and hydro technology that we may be able to employ or buy into."

It's not an immediate solution, but he said the city is definitely chipping away toward their goal of 100% renewable energy for the City of Norman. In every project that the city is responsible for, he said, the council will seek solutions to include solar panels and other renewable energy features.

"I've heard several council members and our mayor, on numerous occasions, identify elements that make great cities great. This is one of those things that make great cities great," Pyle said. "It's something to demonstrate leadership through and I believe that the Norman City Council is interested in leading the path that other local governments can follow."

Pyle said he's continuing conversations with several companies in the renewable technology arena about the opportunity for them to bring their products and technologies to Norman.

The council will discuss the OG&E franchise agreement in about four weeks, and he said the council will continue to share more about what its long-term plans are for adding renewable energy.

The Ready for 100 coalition has about five active working groups right now, including Solar Schools, Efficiency, OG&E franchise agreement, and State Legislation.

Gautier said all of these groups will provide a full report Oct. 9 at their annual full coalition and supporters meeting.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at Norman Library East, and all are welcome.

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