By Brooke Holland
The city of Santa Barbara has vowed to transition entirely to clean and renewable energy, following a City Council vote on Tuesday establishing 100-percent sustainable energy goals by 2030.
The resolution adopted sets both a community-wide and municipal facilities objective to reduce fossil fuel use through increased conservation and efficiency, and by developing renewable energy sources.
The motion also committed to a 50-percent renewable energy goal by 2020 and 100-percent renewable energy for the city’s community electricity supply by 2030, but no specific plan is yet in place.
Santa Barbara represents the first city on the Central Coast to make the pledge, and the resolution comes less than a week after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a global agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“President Trump may be withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, but cities are stepping up and re-committing to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris Climate (Accord) goals,” Mayor Helene Schneider said.
“I'm proud that Santa Barbara has adopted a 100-percent renewable energy goal and is joining other cities across the nation leading the way on clean energy at the local level.”
Schneider became one of first United States mayors to endorse a vision of moving away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy.
This spring, she joined the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative of the Sierra Club's “Ready for 100” campaign — a coalition intending to uphold renewable energy and healthy communities.
The specific steps the city would take to achieve a 100 percent renewable goal are unknown, according to a staff report.
City staff members are expected to develop a work plan, including financial resources and setting a timeline to achieve the goals by Dec. 31, 2018.
Santa Barbara’s future sustainability efforts and projects include water conservation, energy management, wastewater resource recovery, habitat restoration, urban forest enhancement and solid waste management.
Reducing citywide transportation congestion by implementing bicycle and pedestrian master plans, pursuing solar opportunities at city buildings, and restoring riparian vegetation and habitat were noted as the city’s sustainability projects.
Renewable energy tends to be more expensive compared to non-renewable sources, according to a staff report.
City facilities using natural gas instead of, or in addition to, electricity involve significant challenges in relation to the renewable energy goal.
Converting existing facilities — such as the Los Baños Del Mar Pool — from natural gas to electrical energy would be “difficult and extremely costly to achieve,” according to a staff report.
The staff report noted the cost of natural gas is lower than alternative fuels.
Approximately 30 percent of the electricity currently used by Santa Barbara is deemed renewable, according to a staff report.
City staff noted that the remainder is comprised of non-renewable electricity supplied by Southern California Edison and natural gas provided by Southern California Gas, which is used to heat city buildings and other facilities.
Santa Barbara could establish its own renewable sources, purchase renewable energy credits, or voluntarily pay for renewable energy through Edison to achieve the 100 percent renewable goal.
Santa Barbara is joining 29 cities nationwide that have devoted to achieving 100 percent renewable energy targets. San Diego, San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe, Del Mar and Palo Alto are some California cities that have made the commitment.
“This will take a local action that will have a global implication,” Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said. “Local energy generation is good for business and our environment.”
The vote comes after the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Community Environmental Council endorsed the transition and requested the council adopt renewable energy goals during a Sustainability Committee meeting in April.
City staff worked with the Sustainability Committee since 2006 to implement a handful of long-term sustainability projects often directed by state regulation.
Katie Davis, chairwoman of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the organization’s members salute Santa Barbara for their leadership on 100 percent clean energy.
“To meet our international climate goals, we must transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy,” Davis said.
“Moving to 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just the right thing to do for our climate, it’s the smart thing to do for our local economy. Renewable energy costs have decreased dramatically and are now cost competitive with fossil fuels, and Santa Barbara County already has eight times more jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency than in the oil industry.
"The transition to 100 percent clean energy represents a better and more prosperous path forward for our community.”