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Denton plans to be second city in Texas to have 100 percent renewable energy

Denton plans to be second city in Texas to have 100 percent renewable energy

Windmills near the Apogee Stadium that are just some of the renewable energy here in Denton. Denton will soon be the second city to have 100% renewable energy. Ashley Gallegos

Denton plans to be second city in Texas to have 100 percent renewable energy
February 20
16:36 2018

The Denton city council voted Feb. 6 to set a goal to obtain 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020. Councillors voted 6-1 in favor of the resolution, which revises the Renewable Denton Plan to aim for full reliance on renewable energy instead of the previous goal of 70 percent.

Mayor Pro Tem Sara Bagheri was the only opposing vote.

This makes Denton the second city in Texas and the 58th city in the country to commit to such a plan. Georgetown is currently the only city in Texas which uses 100 percent renewable energy.

Adam Briggle, an associate professor in the philosophy and religion department, led the project that allowed UNT to become a 100 percent renewable energy campus.  

“The goal is to be able to purchase enough materials to cover [the city’s] electricity consumption,” Briggle said. “I believe [the city] will be able to do that.”

A presentation on the current state of renewable energy in the city from Denton Municipal Electric (DME) stated the highest rated renewables are solar and coastal wind.  DME general manager George Morrow said the plan is doable because of the economics surrounding renewables. Morrow said solar energy was twice as expensive two years ago but has become less costly.

Bagheri voted against the plan, citing possible damages to Denton’s air quality. Denton had the worst air quality in Texas for the 2014-2016 period, according to state environmental agency rankings.

Bagheri said she is also against the Denton Energy Center (DEC), a natural gas power plant under construction. The plant is located on the west side of Denton Enterprise Airport and costs $265 million. Construction is nearly complete.

“The renewable plan relies on the Denton Energy Center,” Bagheri said. “It relies on pollution, ammonia slip and a litany of toxins being pumped into Denton, an area that already has very poor air quality.” 

The previous Renewable Denton Plan called for 70 percent renewable energy by 2019 and the building of DEC. 

Former DME general manager Phil Williams proposed the original plan, which was adopted with a 4-3 vote.

The controversy surrounding the plant, which included topics of how the natural gas was chosen and contracts for the plant, led to the resignation of many Denton officials, including Williams.

Dacen Kinser, vice president of the UNT Association of Energy Engineers, said the purpose of the plant was to avoid paying for energy directly and save money. He said it failed to consider emissions and public input.

Briggle said there are two camps in renewable energy; one which thinks there is no need for fossil fuel backup and one which thinks natural gas plants are necessary.

“This is a case where democracy struggles to keep up with our high tech infrastructure and it’s really hard to know who to trust,” Briggle said.

In response to the controversy, the city council commissioned Enterprise Risk Consulting to develop a new plan, which was presented to the council last week. DEC is still in the equation but it will be used as a “hedge against electric market price spikes,” according to the city council presentation.

The plant will be turned on by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas when renewable energy does not match energy demand.

“I get the desire for the gas plants and the reasoning behind them but the fact of the matter is that that’s old thinking,” Kinser said. “We are at a place in the market now where we can fully rely on renewable energy without having a fossil fuel plant directly in town. That’s going to negatively affect air quality and it already sowed a lot of distrust in the city council.”

Kinser said the gas plant controversy is a learning opportunity for Denton, and that it led to the termination of those who can’t follow city rules and influenced the ethics ordinance.

Mayor Dale Ross of Georgetown said Denton needs to make a good economic decision for their rate makers and make long-term goals. The city of Georgetown, which is a suburb of Austin, started its renewable plan in 2014 and achieved its goal in 2017.

Ross said there was no resistance to the plan in Georgetown.

“It’s a wonderful decision and it ensures the leadership in Georgetown are very innovative leaders and visionary leaders,” Ross said. “We think outside the box.”

The impact of Denton’s renewable plan is still unknown, but Briggle thinks residents won’t see a big difference. He says bills go up and down and there will not be a big change in that fluctuation.  

Briggle said it will, however, make a political impact.

“If you look at the state of Texas, it is kind of weird because we are a leader in wind and solar but you have a state legislature that is in the pocket of the oil and gas industry,” Briggle said. “It is really important, not just for us, but for the nation, to send a signal that you can put your values into action without sacrificing other values like reliability and cost of the electricity.”

Kinser said he wished the road to this point was better and quicker but that he was happy with the current plan. 

“It shows Denton’s commitment to sustainable energy, sustainable growth and I’m really proud that we got here,” Kinser said. “This along with UNT’s decision to directly buy renewable energy means that all of Denton will be on renewable energy.”

Featured Image: Windmills near Apogee Stadium are one of the renewable energy sources in Denton. Denton will soon be the second city to have 100 percent renewable energy. Ashley Gallegos

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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1 Comment

  1. Rebecca
    Rebecca February 22, 07:39

    This is GREAT news!

    Reply to this comment

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