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SLO sets net-zero goal of 2035, launches CCE

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San Luis Obispo city leaders have set an ambitious target date for achieving carbon-neutrality, or "net-zero" emissions status, as a community: 2035.

It's a decade faster than Gov. Jerry Brown's deadline for a carbon-neutral California, and 15 years faster than the targets of cities like Davis, Santa Monica, and San Francisco.

DOING AWAY WITH CARBON SLO City Councilmembers have set an aggressive target date of 2035 to become carbon neutral, or "net zero." - FILE PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • File Photo By Peter Johnson
  • DOING AWAY WITH CARBON SLO City Councilmembers have set an aggressive target date of 2035 to become carbon neutral, or "net zero."

SLO City Council members admit they aren't sure if 2035 is possible, and they aren't sure exactly how they'll get there. Yet the council, led by climate-conscious Mayor Heidi Harmon, unanimously agreed at a Sept. 18 meeting to make 2035 its aspiration date, citing the urgency of climate change.

"Going slowly on this issue is the same as doing nothing," Harmon said.

The City Council's directive will be formalized next summer in a new climate action plan. It will likely spur new initiatives and regulations—like new building codes—to drastically reduce carbon-based energy use, as well as programs to boost efficiency and clean energy consumption, according to city staff reports and council discussion.

The goal is for SLO's greenhouse gas emissions to be offset by renewable energy generation and carbon sequestering.

"2035? Could that happen?" posed City Councilmember Andy Pease. "I do feel that with the size of our city, the layers of stuff that we would need to decarbonize, that we can be a real leader."

One key clean energy initiative could be just one year away. At the same meeting, the council voted to co-launch a Community Choice Energy (CCE) agency with the city of Morro Bay, tentatively called Central Coast Community Energy. The Morro Bay council unanimously took the same action on Sept. 25.

If approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, Central Coast Community Energy would serve as a municipal electricity provider for the SLO and Morro Bay communities starting in 2020. A CCE allows local governments to buy and sell electricity, and distribute it via PG&E's infrastructure. Central Coast Community Energy will aim to offer customers a 3 percent cost savings with a greenhouse gas-free energy portfolio.

CCE is expected to play an important role in SLO's lofty quest for net-zero status.

While the council expressed unanimous support for an aggressive climate action agenda, not all its members thought the 2035 deadline was within reach.

"I think we're pretty deeply into the unrealistic," Councilmember Dan Rivoire said. "It's going to be extremely difficult." Δ

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