Letter: If clean is good, 100% clean is best
Kudos to Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes for her column in the Vail Daily, How Avon is taking action on climate change and the town of Avon for all the things being done locally, and in collaboration with other communities across the state, to address the threats to our jobs, way of life and environment from the growing reality of climate change. (For a refresher on that reality, the Fourth National Climate Assessment is a comprehensive resource.)
With action at the federal level being stalled or even pushed back, the scientific consensus and our own observed reality notwithstanding, it falls to individuals, towns, counties and more to do what they can to slow the growth of carbon pollution in our one and only atmosphere. In this regard, as the mayor notes, Eagle County is a leader with its Climate Action Plan for the Eagle County Community. And it should be matter of some pride to us that the “project manager” for this effort is our local center of expertise in all things sustainable, Walking Mountains Science Center.
In her piece, the mayor mentions the PuRE program offered by our local electricity utility Holy Cross Electric. Right now, 39% of the energy Holy Cross distributes to us customers comes from renewable sources. The ability to go 100% clean through the PuRE program requires a customer to pay a premium price against the balance of 61% to add supply from one of wind, solar or hydro sources to “offset” this larger carbon polluting portion (mostly coal and natural gas.) That is a good thing, so thank you Holy Cross… although having the energy supply fully decarbonized must be the ultimate goal. Further, as a PuRE customer myself, it seems slightly perverse to have to pay a premium for wind offset … when utility scale wind power is the cheapest source of new electricity in the United States.
Encouragingly, Holy Cross is working to drive the share of carbon sources in its energy mix down with a goal of being 70% clean by 2030. But I would respectfully suggest that this is not adequate given the scale of the environmental challenge we face and its accelerating impacts. Further, I would argue that this is “behind the curve” compared with what many jurisdictions are targeting, namely a “zero” goal (eg 100% clean energy) by a similar date like Denver, Golden — 2030; Breckenridge, Pueblo — 2035. With that in mind, I hope that one of the results of the extensive community collaboration and action, of which Avon and the mayor is part, will be to encourage Holy Cross to up its game. Seventy70Thirty? How about working to take our supply all the way to … ZeroThirty!? If clean is good, 100% clean is best.