A resolution aimed at moving Keene toward 100-percent usage of renewable energy is one step closer to adoption, though a timeline revision drew dismay from supporters this week.
The City Council’s municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee voted, 4-1, Wednesday night to recommend the full council adopt the resolution. Ward 4 Councilor Robert B. Sutherland, who has objected to the proposal at past meetings, voted against it.
Submitted by Keene’s energy and climate committee, the resolution outlines two goals for the city: that all electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, and that all thermal and transportation energy follow suit by 2050. The document stipulates that the goal “will apply to the entire Keene community, not just municipal government operations.”
A resolution, unlike an ordinance, states the council’s opinion or intent on a particular matter. It is not a piece of legislation.
The proposed resolution also includes a December 2020 deadline for the city to develop a strategic plan to reach those goals. That date was the focus of most of Wednesday’s discussion.
The municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee sent the original draft to city staff for revision, and that document stated the city would devise its plan by April of next year. A few members of the public asked councilors Wednesday night to amend the resolution back to that earlier date.
“In my humble opinion, 15 months is more than adequate to come up with a plan, but let’s go for an example here,” said Peter Wotoweic of Langdon, who brought up Concord as a reference.
The capital passed a similar resolution over the summer with nearly identical language regarding the 2030 and 2050 renewable energy goals. But that city’s resolution stipulates that Concord’s energy and environment committee present a strategic plan to the council within a year of adoption.
Wotoweic said this is evidence that the aims could be accomplished more quickly, calling Keene’s method “too conservative.”
“So 23 months to write a plan. That’s a long time. That’s a lengthy and casual approach for a vital plan that will bring so many benefits,” he said.
He asked for the councilors to change the deadline back to April 2020, and subsequent speakers supported the idea, including Ward 3 Councilor Terry M. Clark. He is not a member of the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee but attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Supporters of the earlier deadline stressed the need for urgency in addressing the effects of climate change.
An October study by the United Nations says the world has 12 years to make a change: If average temperatures rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius after that point, the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty increase dramatically for hundreds of millions of people.
But City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said Keene’s timeline takes into account that the city’s community development department is short-staffed and in the middle of overhauling land use and zoning regulations, a huge undertaking.
And, she noted, “we’re not as big as Concord in terms of resources.”
“If we can do it quicker, we certainly will, but the last thing we want to do is set an expectation that we’re unable to meet,” Dragon said.
At-Large Councilor Gary P. Lamoureux agreed that the goal of the resolution is important, but balance is critical, too.
“One is that we heard from the city manager that staffing is slim. The city of Keene likes to do things well,” he said.
There’s a reason staff pushed the date back, he argued, and they should be trusted to get the work done.
Ann Shedd, the chairwoman of the energy and climate committee, said there could be community engagement and awareness efforts done in the meantime while the plan is developed, though she hopes to see it submitted and adopted long before December 2020.
Councilors made no change to the revised deadline before recommending the resolution for adoption.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of City Hall.