RCEA moves forward with 100% renewable energy by 2025
Redwood Coast Energy Authority is continuing its plan to make Humboldt County powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. The board members of RCEA voted in favor to eliminate all fossil fuels and nuclear power 20 years before the state of California’s requirement for 2045.
“We are so excited you consider this resolution,” Wendy Ring of 350 Humboldt said to RCEA board members. “We are joining over 100 jurisdictions in the country.”
Ring is a member of an organization whose core mission is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Ring said of RCEA’s renewable energy resolution that it’s signaling what kind of power we want to buy and allows for more community input.
“I think this is tremendously important,” Ring said. “This may be a little stone in the water but it casts a big circle.”
RCEA was created in 2003 and is a local government Joint Powers Agency. The members include representatives from the County of Humboldt, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad. Their purpose is to “develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region for the benefit of the Member agencies and their constituents.”
RCEA Executive Director Matthew Marshall said in 2018 the state of California established a policy for renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply called the 100 Percent Clean Energy Act. The plan was to be implemented by 2045 and at their monthly meeting in January RCEA decided to adopt the act by 2025.
“RCEA will develop this strategy and enhance it every so often,” Marshall said. “We align with the county-wide effort toward a climate action plan that city members and the county are participating in.”
Pat Carr of 350 Humboldt is one of these members and is in support for 100 percent renewable energy in Humboldt County.
“RCEA has led a leadership role in recent years for local energy resources,” Carr said.
Part of RCEA’s resolution is considering the different resource mixes and local vs. non-local sources to meet the 100 percent renewable goal. Carr said we are already meeting the goal and that there is plenty of local energy in Humboldt County.
“This resolution is important for our community to think about what is clean energy,” Carr said.
RCEA board member Estelle Fennell agrees with Carr and said there are advantages to local renewable energy and we should have that as the goal.
“I want to stress I want to see as much local as possible,” Fennell said. “I can appreciate local in the resolution and as we move forward I want to see other local projects. We want local businesses and I will support that as long as there is local energy.”
A new renewable-energy project that RCEA is considering is an off-shore wind farm in Humboldt Bay. Last April RCEA entered a multi-year project with CIASO called the Redwood Coast Offshore Wind Project. There are two other potential areas in Morro Bay that could get the project if the lease isn’t granted to Humboldt Bay. This project is still in its early steps with the first study just coming out on the potential feasibility of having a wind farm 20 miles West of Eureka.
Executive Director Matthew Marshall said the other three partners are ready to move forward with the conclusion of the study. Marshall said there is a strong team of companies who do this around the world and are interested in doing it in Humboldt.
“Because it’s shallow you can do work in the bay, don’t need crane systems and operations and can tow with a boat the floating structure in an easier and safer way,” Marshall said. “If the study came back and wasn’t feasible we wouldn’t be moving forward but that isn’t what the study said.”
Not everyone is convinced, though. Community member John Shaffer has worked with renewable energy as an electrician for over 40 years and said he disagreed with the project proposal and RCEA should reconsider. Shaffer said off-shore wind farms are too costly and there hasn’t been any credible feasibility study of off-shore wind in Humboldt.
“I strongly support renewable energy,” Shaffer said. “But when so many better ideas are available I do not support uneconomic ones.”
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Why ban hemp in Humboldt when it is an alternative to fossil fuels….assinine…
You left out a major, long-standing issue that was a focus of some comments at the meeting. Currently, 26% of RCEA’s energy mix, and all of its current utility-scale local “renewable” energy, comes from two highly polluting biomass plants that are classified as EPA Title V Major Source polluters.
Since the start of the Community Choice Aggregation plan, RCEA has been marketing this dirty power as “clean,” and “renewable.” As things stand now, RCEA’s “local renewable energy” means only one thing — dirty combustion-based electricity that benefits the timber industry at the expense of the rest of us. Last year RCEA’s ratepayers spent an extra $3 million above regular wholesale energy rates to support Humboldt Redwood Company and DG Fairhaven.
Estelle Fennell has made it clear for as long as she has been on the RCEA board that she is a strong supporter of the timber industry. When she is emphasizing “local” renewable energy, biomass is largely what she has in mind.
A lot of people here are still not aware of what their “local renewable energy” dollars are actually supporting. Biomass is technically “renewable” because trees can grow back, but it is a dirty combustion-based energy source that has more in common with coal than with renewables like solar or wind.