As climate change rings alarm bells throughout our society, Bainbridge Islanders are mobilizing to do something about our piece of the planet. One place they are coming together to share ideas is the Climate and Energy Forum, which meets once a month and is open to all—see BainbridgeIslandForum.org.
The April Forum was a lively session focused on moving our island to 100 percent clean energy by 2040 — in line with the goals of the Climate Change Advisory Committee formed by the city council in 2017. Three presenters kicked off the meeting, followed by participants discussing action ideas.
Randal Samstag, a consulting engineer and expert on energy and water, described the energy sources that Puget Sound Energy draws on for Bainbridge’s electricity. PSE uses 59 percent fossil fuels (37 percent coal and 22 percent gas), 31 percent hydro, 9 percent wind and 1 percent nuclear.
Jason Wilkinson, an architect with McLennan Design, spoke about buildings. Along with reducing energy use in building operations, he explained the importance of the energy embodied in the buildings’ materials, such as concrete, which requires a lot of energy to produce.
Joe Deets of Community Solar Solutions spoke about local energy generation. Joe and his wife Tammy created the community solar investment model that put solar panels on the roof of our city hall.
In discussions during the breakout groups, participants developed recommendations to help reach the 100 percent clean energy goal:
1. Engage in a collaborative effort with PSE, the city, and others to determine how we can green our grid and continue to explore the public power option, which, by tapping into the Bonneville system, could make our power source 97 percent fossil fuel free.
2. Encourage the city to form a task force to develop stringent green building codes for city, school, residential, and commercial buildings and to encourage smaller homes and affordable housing; work with the city, PSE, and others to develop incentives to encourage owners of homes and commercial buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improvements such as adding insulation, installing heat exchangers, and retrofitting to eliminate combustion equipment.
3. Complete an island-wide assessment of the best sites for community solar installations, and pursue possibilities for creating an island-wide community solar program.
During the Forum, I noted that the Washington State Legislature has passed three climate-related bills that help meet the goals discussed: The 100 percent Clean Electricity Act (SB5116) mandates that the state’s electrical systems get completely off of coal by 2025 and off of all fossil fuels by 2045 and helps low-income communities with the transition; the Clean Buildings for Washington Act (HB1257) sets standards for buildings throughout the state, while allowing local jurisdictions to set stricter standards; and the Solar Fairness Act (SB5223) raises the cap on the amount of solar that a utility must take back, and helps low-income communities develop solar, opening the door to more local generation.
The next forum is at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23 at The Good Egg in the Winslow Green. Lara Hansen, executive director of EcoAdapt, Stacy Nordgren of Foresight Partners Consulting, and James Rufo-Hill of the city of Seattle will discuss our island’s vulnerabilities to climate change and what our community can do to better weather the change.
On June 1 the forum will bring speakers from Our Children’s Trust, which represents 21 young people in a lawsuit against the U.S. government. They contend that by continuing to support the fossil fuel industry despite knowledge that such support endangers their future, the government is violating the public trust.
The Climate and Energy Forum is sponsored by Sustainable Bainbridge, Climate Action Bainbridge, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Island Power, and EcoAdapt. Come join us in making Bainbridge a model of a climate savvy community.
Fran Korten is a 20-year resident of Bainbridge Island, former Publisher of YES! Magazine, and active participant in the Bainbridge Island Climate and Energy Forum.