On Monday December 14th at 9:00 a.m., the Public Utilities Board and the City Council will hold Public Hearings at City Hall regarding the proposed Renewable Denton Plan. There will be a second meeting the next day, Tuesday December 15th at 6:30 p.m. in case you’re not a morning person. The mission of this plan is very simple: increase renewable power in Denton from 40% to 70% by 2019.
In case you were not aware, Denton currently runs off of 40% renewable energy.
“As world leaders are talking about how to tackle the threat of climate change, the city of Denton has been doing something about it for years,” explains District 1 councilman Kevin Roden. “Denton has been leading the nation in utilizing renewable energy resources to power our city since 2009 when we announced that 40% of our energy would come from wind.
“Not content with that, the city council has been asking for a plan to scale our renewable portfolio to take us even further. Renewable Denton does just that. We will scale to 70% renewables by 2019, well ahead of our previous goal of 2030,” Roden explained.
Take Georgetown, Texas for example. Similar to Denton, their city utility company has a monopoly, they house a major University, and the town is working to become the first city in the state to run off of 100% renewable energy. Their current projections have the town set at 100% renewable energy by 2017, serving more than 24,000 customers in a growing town just about 30 miles north of the state's capital.
There are only three cities in the United States that run off of 100% renewable energy. As of this past September, Aspen, Colorado joined the short list of cities offering completely clean energy resources along with Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
“This puts us among a very small handful of cities actually doing something to wean ourselves off traditional fossil fuel generation and move the needle on climate change,” councilman Roden explains. “Not surprisingly, Denton is leading the nation in yet another area. Our citizens should be proud.”
The concern seems to be a rising cost to residents energy bills. Phil Williams, General Manager of Denton Municipal Utilities, explains differently, though. DME is working endlessly to find new renewable energy sources as well as ways to cut costs on what may seem like already high energy bills. “Some citizens are concerned about their rates going up and are cost concious, and some of them are willing to pay more to be 100% renewable.” What about if you’re somewhere in between?
Another way to conserve energy is to run off of batteries, and DME is lookng in to it. While in states like California who maintain fairly cool summer evenings, one wouldn’t necessarily have to run an air conditioner all night like a resident in Texas would. Without running an AC, the minimal energy used throughout the evening could run on a battery pack. While the technology hasn’t quite caught up with the Texas size standards yet, Williams says that DME is “looking at how we can adapt that and use it in our future here.”
One of the challenges with renewable energy is that it is extremely difficult to predict. No one can accurately forecast whether or not the sun will shine or the wind will blow, or for how long. So what happens when there is not enough wind out in West Texas, or enough sunshine in other places?
“You have to have another source when that doesn’t work,” explains Williams. The plan is to build two natural gas plants in Denton to suffice the needs, when they come about. Williams also says that they are constantly finding newer, more efficient technology, in addition to as much wind and solar space they can buy-up.
“While the plan does involve the creation of natural gas generation plants in our city, we are doing so in order to divest ourselves of our investment in the much dirtier Gibbons Creek coal plant,” Roden explains. “Furthermore, the plan reduces our overall emissions by 70%, drastically cuts our city’s carbon footprint, and puts us on a trajectory to eventually move to 100% renewables.”
What can you do? Williams says, start by conserving energy. DME offers free energy audits that provides customers with a checklist on things they can do to conserve their current energy usage. If you make any energy saving home improvements, there might be a rebate for that, too. Williams want to see residents getting involved. “If you can’t be at the hearings, email or call us to let us know what you think,” he explains. You can find out more information by going to their website at renewabledenton.com.