Likely Impossible, Helena Votes to Use 100% Renewable Energy by 2030

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The Helena City Commission voted in favor of a resolution on Monday to place Helena on 100% renewable energy by 2030, despite the technology not existing to make the dream a reality. More than 30 people, mostly local environmental activists, spoke in favor of the resolution. No one spoke against it. Helena follows the city of Missoula, who passed a similar resolution last year.

Those present at the meeting didn’t seem to understand that science and infrastructure does not allow 100% renewable energy, nor does it look possible in the foreseeable future. That didn’t stop them from passing the measure.

Bob Adams said at the meeting, “Thank you very much for bringing this resolution and trying to put us on the right side of science and the right side of history.”

Others, like City Commissioner Andres Haladay, also affirmed the plans, clarifying the resolution will “only be a beginning.”

“We all – this commission, all of you – need,” Andres said, “to continue to challenge all of our public entities, all of our community members and our neighbors, to keep doing their work.”

According to the resolution, Helena receives 39% of its power from so-called “fossil fuels” (a designation that refers to mineral resources, although the notion that petroleum comes from “fossils” or purely organic sources has been largely debunked by scientists).

Northwest Energy, a major energy supplier for Helena, still produces that 39% of its non-renewable from coal, with the other 61% of its power from sources like water and wind, an amount that seems insurmountable and won’t be greatly reduced in the near future because of limitations in technology and infrastructure.

The resolution recommends a “green tariff” to accomplish their goals. A “utility green tariff” is when a large energy consumer – like a city – mandates to an energy provider that regardless of the source of the power they distribute to others, the consumer will only receive energy produced by clean energy. In this scenario, Northwest Energy would have to provide Helena 100% renewable energy and give the rest of their coal-powered energy to other consumers.

Unfortunately, not only would a utility green tariff not lower non-renewable power over-all in Montana (because coal-produced energy would go to other consumers) thus having a zero net-effect for the environment, it’s simply not how energy production and distribution works.




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