A plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the city of Bend by changing commuting habits and energy sources, and creating incentives to encourage eco-friendly construction, could be up for consideration by the City Council as early as December.
If implemented, the plan could reduce fossil fuel consumption by 49% within a decade, Cassie Lacy, senior management analyst for the city of Bend, said Thursday at the Go Clean Energy Conference in Bend.
As cities around the globe seek ways to become carbon neutral by the middle of this century, and climate activists are pushing governments to reduce fossil fuel consumption, the city of Bend is looking to revamp its rules on promoting renewable energy and cutting carbon emissions.
In 2016, Bend’s City Council set targets for community fossil fuel use reduction of 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050.
“We did some modeling to see if we could achieve those goals, and we found that by 2030, if we implemented these strategies, we would reduce our fossil fuel consumption by 49%,” Lacy said.
Bend’s City Council will review the strategies in November and possibly vote on them by December, Lacy said. A variety of funding sources can be used to pay for the projects, including external grants and taxpayer money.
“There’s a lot the city wants to do with the transportation system and affordable housing. Those are of high importance for the community. So we would seek external funding (for climate projects). There are many different pathways, but there could be impacts to the general fund,” Lacy said.
Renewable sources would make up 100% of Bend’s electricity profile, according to the proposals to be considered by the City Council.
Pacific Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, sources its electricity from several power stations for use in Bend. Coal makes up 56% of the mix, according to Bob Gravely, spokesman for Pacific Power. Natural gas makes up 15%, wind 9%, hydro 5% and solar 4%. Pacific Power also receives 10% of its power through wholesale market purchases. Pacific Power’s coal plants are out of state, mainly in Wyoming and Utah.
While all of Pacific Power’s customers receive energy from the same pool of power, communities can choose carbon off-setting options.
“Cities can make choices so they are supporting the development of renewable energy,” Gravely said.
On Thursday, Portland-based PacifiCorp announced plans to retire most of its coal plants within two decades. A draft plan calls for larger investments in solar and wind plants to off-set the losses of the coal plants.
Bend’s climate action goals include achieving carbon neutrality for its city facilities by 2030. If carbon offsets are needed, then priority would go to verifiable projects in Central Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Fossil fuel use from the year 2010 will be used to establish a baseline.
The project is expected to include incentives and tax breaks for solar projects that would offset energy use from the grid, and requirements for solar on all new city buildings. Programs would be put in place to retrofit buildings across the city for energy efficiency. And there are plans to streamline waste collection and improve recycling.
In addition to using renewable sources of power, Bend’s Climate Action Steering Committee is working on plans to encourage a greater use of electric vehicles, electric bicycles and public transportation.
“If the city can offer incentives to move more people into electric vehicles that would be a win,” said Casey Bergh, transportation program manager for Oregon State University-Cascades.
Recognizing that combustible engines will be needed to power trucks and large-size family cars for years to come, Bergh believes the carbon reductions from vehicles can start with commuter habits.
“I try to encourage people to bike to work one day a week. If they find that works for them, maybe they can increase that to two days or more,” Bergh said.