Climate change is a global problem, but officials have begun work on an initiative to help solve the crisis from within Stoughton’s city limits.
Ald. Ben Heili (Dist. 4), in the midst of his first term, is spearheading a sustainability initiative in the city government along with Ald. Regina Hirsch (Dist. 3), Jean Ligocki (Dist. 2) and Brett Schumacher (Dist. 1). Heili said addressing climate change at the local level was one of his top priorities when he joined the council.
“Several other cities have been putting forward local “green new deal” plans, and I hope what we’re working on ends up with a similar set of solutions that go as far as a small city government can,” he wrote the Hub in an email.
At a meeting of the Community Affairs and Council Policy committee on Tuesday, Dec. 3, the group took initial steps toward a plan Heili says will include setting aggressive renewable energy targets for Stoughton Utilities.
Corey Neely of WPPI Energy, an electric co-op serving Stoughton, spoke to the committee on some of the ways the city could reach future carbon emission reduction targets.
One of the options Neely presented was purchasing of renewable energy credits for the city. That means that where the resources are not available to produce renewable energy nearby, the city would pay for renewable energy elsewhere to offset the emissions produced by dirtier local sources.
Neely said this is how many cities that have set targets such as 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 intend to achieve their goals.
“In theory it sounds great, but you really can’t put enough solar on roofs to do that,” Neely said.
Once purchased the credits, Neely said “There has to be output somewhere, so it spurs the growth of renewable energy.”
The good news, Neely said, is that renewable energy is getting less expensive, and WPPI is expecting the program to be cheaper next year.
But he said the city will need to decide on its target and make a financial commitment.
Heili said other projects the city could work on involve reviewing building and efficiency standards, and looking for planning and zoning solutions that could help use infrastructure more efficiently.
“It’s the things you look at on any building,” Heili said, giving as examples the insulation of the Stoughton Opera House or adding more solar arrays to the roofs of buildings such as the Public Works building.
And while the council is largely in agreement on the urgency of municipal action on climate change, Heili does not want the initiative to come from the top down.
“We’re looking for input and allies from the community,” he said, adding that he has already been knocking on doors in the community to talk about the initiative.
Heili acknowledged that to effectively tackle climate change, however, local work needs to be interwoven with national and international efforts.
“No city government has the resources to do that on its own,” Heili said. He said in an ideal world, there would be funding from all the way up to the federal level for municipalities to address climate change, but in the absence of that funding, he’s looking for ways the city can get creative.
“We’re not representing the people of Stoughton if we ignore this,” Heili said.