Dec 4, 2023 - News

Atlanta's clean energy goal proves an uphill climb

Illustration of a battery in front of a large hurdle

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The city of Atlanta's push to go exclusively green is… well, it's going.

What's happening: City Hall has set a goal to achieve 100% clean energy for municipal operations β€” solar panels on rec centers, EV trucks and the like β€” and citywide by 2035.

  • Leaders wanted to hit the 30% mark by 2025. However, chief sustainability officer Chandra Farley told members of an Atlanta City Council committee this week, "we're about 13% of the way [to the overall goal]."

Catch up quick: In 2017, then Atlanta City Councilman (and mayoral hopeful) Kwanza Hall proposed the goal shortly after telling a Buckhead forum he was skeptical of climate change.

  • Hall later said he misspoke; he just wasn't sold on "the politicization of big issues like climate change." The council approved a plan in 2019.

In the weeds: The city buys its energy from Georgia Power, which considers nuclear energy to be clean.

  • The city doesn't; Farley told Axios in a statement that residents involved in the plan's creation expressed concerns over nuclear's cost and water consumption during the planning process.
  • If it did, Atlanta would be closer to 28% toward its overall goal, Farley told the committee.

What they're saying: Environment Georgia's Jennette Gayer told Axios she urges the city to make plans to catch up with the goal. But even if City Hall misses a benchmark, there's reason to celebrate.

"This was never going to be easy in Georgia," Gayer, who sits on the city's clean energy advisory council, told Axios.

  • Atlanta and other cities are advocating at the Georgia Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulates utilities, for more renewable energy, she said.
  • They're also partnering on applications for federal grants to go green.

What the city's saying: The city's plan to reach 100% prioritizes using less energy, generating more clean energy, and buying renewable energy credits, Farley told Axios.

  • The biggest challenges, she said: the state's utility policy, funding, and wider adoption of available technologies.
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