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Wilmington City Council approves clean energy goals through 2050

One of the task force recommendations would require installation of electric vehicle charging station infrastructure in all new city construction projects and parking facilities.
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One of the task force recommendations would require installation of electric vehicle charging station infrastructure in all new city construction projects and parking facilities.

The City of Wilmington has established a list of priorities and goals designed to reduce its carbon footprint within 30 years. The plans were approved by City Council at this week’s meeting.

The clean energy goals were recommended by the city’s Ad Hoc Clean Energy Task Force. That task force was established in March 2020, with the aim of setting achievable clean energy objectives. The team released its report in January 2021.

Related: Mayor Saffo announces goal to reduce Wilmington greenhouse gas emissions by 100%

The approved resolution will adopt the goals listed as part of that report — which include a 50% transition from fossil fuels to clean energy by the year 2035, and a 100% transition by 2050. Both initiatives apply to municipal operations, as well as the city’s vehicle fleet.

The resolution will also establish a Clean Energy Advisory Committee. According to city documents, the committee will then make strategic recommendations to help the city transition to clean energy sources. The task force recommends the addition of at least one staff member dedicated to sustainability — to handle and foster ongoing community engagement, and cultivate partnerships with stakeholders in the community.

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City of Wilmington
What would it require to offset 100% of the city’s energy usage? The graphic provides a mental image of the renewable energy infrastructure that would be needed to achieve 100% renewable electricity.

Immediate Goals

The Ad Hoc Clean Energy Task Force made several first-step recommendations it considers “low-hanging fruit” for the city to address clean energy. According to the task force, these specific actions have no-to-minimal initial costs, minimal budget impact, and a potentially easy path to adoption.

  • Develop, fund, and implement a plan to optimize the energy efficiency of municipal buildings and operations. That includes promoting a culture change within city operations, which encourages employees to conserve energy. Adopt a green building policy, requiring all new municipal buildings and major retrofits be built to LEED standards.
  • Ensure city codes and policies do not discourage the deployment of renewable technology, and support clean energy in the 2021 local, state, and federal legislative agendas.
  • Educate the community on clean energy, and partner with New Hanover County Schools to provide clean energy-focused content for students.
  • Partner with WAVE Transit, CFPUA, and the private sector to drive energy reduction policies. Encourage New Hanover County to adopt clean energy goals, and seek partnerships on clean energy with local and regional organizations. Develop partnerships with nonprofits and community groups for low-income home weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades.
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City of Wilmington
Based on the US Dept. of Energy LEAD Tool, in Wilmington the poorest people (0-30% of the area median income) spend a substantial portion of their total income on home energy (see table). The Ad Hoc Clean Energy Task Force recommends low-income home weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades.

  • Join the Department of Energy funded SolSmart program to receive free technical assistance to streamline solar permitting, inspections, and zoning requirements.
  • Support and encourage the participation of minority-owned business enterprises in all aspects of the city’s Clean Energy Plan.
  • Mitigate existing health impacts and reduce future pollution exposure to residents by promoting business development and recruitment incentives on businesses in the clean energy and technology sector.
  • Require installation of electric vehicle charging station infrastructure in all new city construction projects and parking facilities.
  • Implement a policy that any new vehicles purchased by the city must be hybrid or ZEV.
  • Reduce vehicle miles traveled by encouraging expanding telework opportunities, alternative work schedules, bike share programs, personalized commuter plans, and the fostering of a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly culture.
  • Pursue state, federal, and non-profit clean energy grant opportunities.
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City of Wilmington
The city released a public survey between July 2, 2020 and July 24, 2020 to get a snapshot of the community’s “clean-energy pulse”. The survey was distributed via the city’s social media platforms, as well as printed copies distributed by Task Force members. The survey had 621 responses, with 77% of the respondents living in the City of Wilmington.

Future Goals

Future step recommendations are also listed, but the task force notes they will require longer planning to implement, have higher initials costs, will need additional budgetary funding, and/or have longer goal horizons.

  • Investigate collaborative opportunities with Duke Energy and other local utilities to deploy renewable energy technologies in the region.
  • Partner with UNCW, CFCC, New Hanover County, NC Ports, NHRMC, and others, in developing collaborative opportunities to pursue grants, pilot projects, etc. to deploy more renewable energy in the area and train workers for renewable technology jobs.
  • Participate in resilient electric grid infrastructure and energy storage planning/projects given the city’s risks on the coast.
  • Explore clean energy options such as development of off-shore wind, carbon capture and storage (CCS), advanced nuclear, and green hydrogen in the Cape Fear region.
  • Evaluate the economic feasibility of participating in Duke Energy’s Green Source Advantage program.
  • Reduce energy cost burden on low income city residents through weatherization and energy efficiency improvements.
  • Grow local clean energy workforce: target low-income and minority youth, and people transitioning out of incarceration.
  • Enhance access to low carbon-no carbon transportation and mobility options for City residents and communities.
  • Adopt heat mitigation measures to address the urban heat island effect.
  • Encourage a municipal composting/agriculture program.
  • Support efforts to develop community solar/rooftop solar programs.
  • Create a plan and budget to install EV charging stations in city-owned locations. Take advantage of grant opportunities to off-set the costs of fleet conversion to ZEV, and the installation and maintenance of EV charging infrastructure.

Read the full report here.