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Talent Promises To Become Fossil-Fuel Free By 2030

Photo via unsplash.com

The small southern Oregon town of Talent is getting some statewide attention for its ambitious clean energy plan.

In its updated comprehensive plan, this city of 6,500 people has promised it will transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, among other clean energy commitments.

"It includes things like helping renters and homeowners access existing energy efficiency resources," Hannah Sohl of Rogue Climate, a local environmental nonprofit, says. "It includes things like prioritizing energy efficiency and renewable energy for city operations."

Rogue Climate partnered with a group of Talent residents who were determined to make their city completely independent of fossil fuels. They set out to design a clean energy plan for the city in 2015. Sohl says they dedicated hundreds of hours of research to developing this plan, which published in 2017. Then they set out to have the city adopt a clean energy component into its comprehensive plan, which is a government document that outlines a city's long-term goals.

“A lot of cities have made a clean energy plan, or a sustainability plan, but they haven't actually incorporated it into their comprehensive plan,” says Michael Hoch, Talent Energy Efficiency Coordinator, who is helping the city with its green energy intiatives.

Hoch has been fielding calls from other small cities who want to make similar energy commitments, including Klamath Falls. He tells them that small towns don’t need a lot of upfront capital to go green. The key, he says, is forming partnerships.

“It's always great to partner with people because you get a different perspective,” Hoch says. “You just have to find the right partner for your organization.”

Talent has pursued a number of energy efficiency projects, including replacing street lights with LED bulbs, installing solar panels on public buildings, and installing electric vehicle charging stations. The city has partnered with the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative to install additional solar panels, and it has enrolled six of its facilities in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management program. So far it has reduced its natural gas use in public buildings by 8 percent in 2018, then another 5 percent in 2019.

Talent’s comprehensive plan also calls on the city to conduct a feasibility study on electric utility models. The city currently relies on the investor-owned company Pacific Power for its electricity. The study will consider other options, such as a more local, consumer-owned electric utility model similar to Ashland’s.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.