City takes action to be 100% renewable, but we all could do more (Opinion)

Tahoe Climate Change Action Network
Guest column

Amidst what could be the hottest summer on record and potentially the most severe drought of our lifetime, climate change no longer appears to be some distant existential threat. In this context, it seems appropriate to assess South Lake Tahoe’s commitment to sustainability and climate action.

On April 18, 2017, City Council voted unanimously to achieve 100% renewable electricity — citywide — by 2032 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2040. Four years later, here is what progress has been made and what additional steps are needed.

Liberty Utilities, our current electricity provider, gets its energy from NV Energy and estimates its total renewable power mix is only around 27.5%. With no discernible plans for solar or wind projects on the horizon, it raises concerns about if and how Liberty will be able to transition to 100% renewable sources within the next decade.

In regards to GHG emissions, a recent city study shows our emissions actually went up over 8% between 2015 and 2018. While this doesn’t sound promising, the good news is that the city is taking action. In the past two years our community has:

• Completed and adopted a Climate Action Plan

• Met with local energy providers and businesses to identify strategies and solutions

• Identified key energy efficiency measures with clear return on investment such as LEDs.

• Installed solar at the airport hangar.

• Applied for a Department of Energy grant to install microgrid infrastructure on over 100 public buildings and 248 affordable housing units.

But is this enough? Right now, we need more action and less planning. Our long, remote transmission lines increase wildfire risk. We have all received notice that Liberty is proposing to raise our rates by 40% for wildfire prevention. As a community, we have both a duty and the opportunity to do more. More local energy generation can help and we are working toward that goal.

On Aug. 3, the city’s 100% Renewable Subcommittee will present the following recommendations to the City Council:

• Hire a full-time sustainability/energy director

• Maximize locally owned and sited renewable energy projects.

• Explore local energy control options such as community choice aggregation

• Adopt new code that maximizes electrification in all new developments.

• Work with CPUC to rework tariffs to allow for community solar/microgrid development.

• Establish financing to upgrade low-income housing to efficient all-electric systems.

To learn more about the options and show your support, please attend the Aug. 3 City Council meeting at City Council Chambers, located at 1901 Airport Road. The City Council needs to hear from the public.

For more information, visit

Submitted by Tahoe Climate Change Action Network’s Colleen Bye, Sara Letton, Jackson Realo, Rebecca Bryson and Patricia Sussman.

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