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Helena commits to 100% clean energy by 2030

Helena commits to 100% clean energy by 2030

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The City-County Building in downtown Helena.

The City-County Building in downtown Helena.

Helena will source all of its energy from clean, renewable projects by 2030, according to a resolution unanimously approved by the city commission Monday.

Helena Sustainability Coordinator Patrick Judge said the resolution has been in the works since well before he took on the role in early January.

Former Helena city commissioner and current state Rep. Robert Farris-Olsen, D-Helena, spoke during the public-comment period Monday evening to express his support of the city's continued efforts to combat climate change.

"This is a great continuation of work we've done in the past," Farris-Olsen said.

More than two dozen concerned Helenans and citizens of communities as far away as California showed up in support of the resolution. Nearly 100 people shoe-horned themselves into the city commission chambers to bear witness to the landmark resolution.

Judge said this resolution has been a priority for not only the city commissioners, but also a large contingent of Helena's residents.

"It does seem as though the community is tracking this issue and supporting this resolution," he said.

The city has received numerous emails in recent weeks calling for the commission to approve the resolution.

"This is one of the most important things you can do for our city's future," Helena resident Shannon Heath wrote in an email to the mayor and commission Monday morning.

The state's largest utility, NorthWestern Energy, contends that approximately 60% of the energy it provides is already derived from renewable sources.

City Commissioner Andres Haladay said during the meeting that reaching the ambitious goal will require a "substantial shift" and ample cooperation from NorthWestern Energy.

"We need to flex our muscles as a community, and that's what we're doing here tonight," Haladay said, adding that the overwhelming support the city commission has seen for this resolution is proof that constituents are clamoring for change.

The resolution states that the city expects "new sources of clean, renewable electricity will be developed and deployed in ways that are sensitive to impacts on wildlife, fish, ecosystems and public health."

The resolution also calls for the Montana Consumer Counsel, Montana Public Service Commission and state government to "consider Helena's vision as they carry out their mandate to protect the public interest."

The resolution formally commits the city to "take the necessary steps, within its control, to power the community with 100% clean, renewable electricity by 2030, using current and future technological and scientific advances."

It also sets an interim goal of 80% clean energy by 2025 and expresses a need for measuring progress. The Helena Citizen Conservation Advisory Board will work in tandem with Judge to determine what metrics to use when gauging progress.

The resolution lays out a number of strategies the city intends to implement as a way of advancing the goal, including "advocating that the incumbent utility procure additional renewable energy resources," investing in renewable energy projects at city-owned property, and incentivising public participation by expanding the city's zero-interest loan program, which offers 10-year loans to community members for the purpose of installing rooftop solar panels or similar projects.

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins said he has not seen or heard a single negative comment about the initiative.

"This is what happens when the community comes together to say, 'This is what we want,'" Collins said.

Collins commended the large number of Helena youths who also attended Monday's meeting, many of whom said they were thankful for the commission's foresight.

As the roll was called for the vote, Collins responded with "a resounding aye."

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