On the heels of what many expected to be a historic weather event in the City of New Orleans, a coalition of local and national renewable energy advocates, including a diversity of community leaders and local businesses submitted a sweeping proposal aimed at transforming the current energy system in the city to 100% renewable energy by 2040. Hurricane Barry served as a reminder that resilience is intertwined with the fate of New Orleans, and that renewable energy as well as resilience are the key to its long term survival. This innovative proposal represents not only a first for New Orleans, but also for the Gulf South, and was developed through community input to ensure equity, reduced cost of electric bills, and lasting environmental benefits. The Coalition filed their proposal with the Clerk of Council on Monday, July 15.
“This effort has been community-led from the beginning, with locals asking the Council to consider an RPS last year, and now with a full proposal for a renewable future that responds to the specific priorities of New Orleanians,” said Logan Burke of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. “This is truly people-powered.”
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that demanding renewable energy for the City of New Orleans is not only a necessity for surviving the climate emergency, but also that it is a way to uplift communities here and make our city more resilient to costly and dangerous climate effects in the city,” said Andy Kowalczyk of 350 New Orleans. “This vision not only creates a roadmap for the future, but one that will bring everyone along.”
The Resilient and Renewable Portfolio Standard (R-RPS), developed by the Energy Future New Orleans coalition establishes a comprehensive path for the City of New Orleans to reach 100% renewable energy by the year 2040, and to reach that target by addressing the greatest challenges faced by residents. Among these challenges are some of the highest energy costs in the country for low- and moderate-income ratepayers, and the ever-present demands of the city to be resilient during frequent extreme weather events and power outages. Energy poverty is already a problem in New Orleans, with some customers paying as much as 23% of their income on Entergy bills. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these costs as extreme weather events push temperatures higher.
“With this plan, we are talking about creating a lot of good, local jobs, about maintaining access to life-saving power to critical community infrastructure and medically vulnerable individuals, and about empowering an entire city to take control of its destiny,” said Thad Culley, Southeast Regional Director for Vote Solar. “It’s heartening to see the tenacity and determination of local advocates who are doing this for the community they live and work in every day. These leaders see renewable energy and the clean energy economy as a means for improving and defending their city. I have no doubt that they will be a shining example for the entire nation of the power of clean energy to improve lives and make communities stronger.”
30% of the mandate is allocated to local renewable energy generation to help build the next generation of energy jobs in New Orleans, and the establishment of a renewable energy mandate for the Gulf South is historic in its own right, but the goal of a mandate focused on resilience is notable on the national stage as well. The R-RPS seeks to achieve resilience goals of at least 10% of renewable energy being allocated to critical infrastructure and emergency services during times of the greatest need through assets like microgrids and energy storage. These assets provide aggregate benefits to the grid year-round that will lower costs that need to be spent for traditional electricity grid infrastructure over the long term.
“Audubon Louisiana is proud to join so many members of the New Orleans community in proposing this roadmap to a renewable and resilient energy future for New Orleans. Too often the story from our state has been one of disasters and poor practices that contribute to climate change.” said Karen Profita, executive director of Audubon Louisiana. “Now New Orleans has an opportunity to be a national leader in taking on one of our greatest conservation challenges which is a leading threat to birds and other wildlife in Louisiana. With the Council’s leadership and this plan, we will secure a brighter future for New Orleans by creating an environment that protects our health, our pocketbooks, our energy security, our treasured birds and wildlife, and our way of life.”
The City Council, through their authority over the sole electric utility Entergy New Orleans, initiated the rulemaking process for a Renewable Portfolio Standard in March 2019 allowing advocates to voice their intentions for the city’s energy future. A vote is expected by the full seven-member council in late 2019.
The R-RPS is supported by 350 New Orleans, The Alliance for Affordable Energy, Audubon Louisiana, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, PosiGen, Sierra Club, Southern Renewable Energy Association, Vote Solar and Center for Sustainable Engagement & Development.
News item from Vote Solar