Guest column: Renewable energy transformation in South Lake Tahoe a cause for optimism (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: Renewable energy transformation in South Lake Tahoe a cause for optimism (opinion)

Nick Exline
Guest Column

Nick Exline

Let's face it, things feel broken. Daily we are bombarded with a constant stream of negativity and conflict. At times the vitriol that permeates our discourse from the local to national level seems overwhelming. It is only natural to want to retreat and escape from this contentious reality.

However great the temptation, we must remain engaged and, more importantly, we must remember that there is a different path we can choose. This path is built on mutual respect, empathy, hard work and cooperation, and will lead to a better community in which we can begin to solve the challenges that face us.

As a community this better path is the one we have chosen as we have embarked on a renewable energy and sustainability transformation. The city of South Lake Tahoe, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District (LTUSD) and Vail Resorts have all committed to 100 percent renewable electricity.

When the LTUSD board approved the Healthy and Environmentally Sound Schools Resolution it did more than commit to 100 percent renewable electricity — the district committed to becoming sustainability leaders.

I am fortunate to be part of the LTUSD Sustainability Committee and have seen their leadership in action as the school district works to reduce its energy usage by 35 percent and replace 50 percent of its existing bus fleet with electric buses in the next three years.

The energy reduction leadership LTUSD has already shown is resulting in significant financial savings. Currently LTUSD is saving approximately $250,000 a year by making our schools more energy efficient. That is money that is now being spent on our children and not on energy bills.

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On April 17, 2017 the city of South Lake Tahoe became the 26th city in the United States to commit to obtain 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2032. This historic commitment led to the formation of the City of South Lake Tahoe 100% Renewable Committee.

I am honored to sit as that committee's chair and we are making incredible progress. Following the 100 percent renewable commitment, the city has partnered with the Sierra Nevada Alliance to host a CivicSpark Fellow. The Civic Spark Fellow could help complete energy audits for all city buildings, so like the school district, we can begin to save money on our energy bills.

The CivicSpark Fellow also can help evaluate and implement an LED streetlight program and begin a comprehensive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory for the city.

The 100 percent Renewable Resolution was not just an aspirational goal, but a sign to investors and entrepreneurs that the city is open for business This "open for business" approach has led to an incredible opportunity for South Shore businesses and institutions to get a free, no strings attached solar assessment.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please feel free to contact me. We also have begun to move past the assessment phase and into implementation. At its June 19 meeting, the City Council approved the city's first major solar project at the airport.

The amazing part is that these examples are just the beginning. The Tahoe Transportation District is working toward electrifying its fleet. The League to Save Lake Tahoe is partnering with Chariot Shuttles to bring micro-transit to the South Shore. Electric car charging stations are popping up all over town and the Lake Tahoe Community College is incorporating sustainability measures into its ongoing development.

This transformation could not have taken place without the tireless work of many volunteers within our community. So, as we sit at a crossroads between two paths we have a choice. We can either take the path of negativity and conflict or a divergent path. This divergent path is built on respect, empathy, hard work and cooperation where we work together toward a renewable energy future.

If we can unite by what binds us instead of focusing on what divides us then there is so much we can accomplish together.

Nick Exline is chair of the SLT 100% Renewable Committee and founder of the Tahoe Climate Change Action Network. Contact him at exline555@gmail.com.