Clayton: first MO city working to become a Green Power Community

Reposted from Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch

For a team of municipal officials, Clayton businesses and green-energy consultants, reducing the city’s reliance on coal has been a major goal.

In April, the Clayton Board of Aldermen voted to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s challenge to join the ranks of the nation’s Green Power Communities by replacing 2 percent of the energy the city uses with renewable energy within one year. The deadline for the effort is Earth Day 2011, which falls on April 22.

In order to accomplish this feat, the city has teamed up with AmerenUE PurePower, locally headquartered Microgrid Energy and 3Degrees—the company that originally approached Clayton with the idea of becoming a Green Power Community. Together, the partnership hopes to reach the target of 670 megawatt hours per month of renewable energy purchased among Clayton businesses, government buildings, nonprofits and private residences, said Rick Hunter, the president and chief executive of Microgrid Energy.

“We are based in downtown Clayton, so it’s been convenient for us that the first city that was chosen for the program was Clayton,” Hunter said. “We’re a solar installer that also help businesses with energy efficiency.”

Individuals or organizations interested in contributing to the effort may do so in one of two ways, Hunter said. Participants may purchase renewable energy credits, which typically go toward producing power in wind farms, or they can install their own solar panels.

Partners in the effort agree that environmental consciousness runs deep in Clayton.

“The city of Clayton has been a pure-power leader for almost three years now,” said Cindy Bambini, the senior Ameren partnership manager for 3Degrees. “The city is also looking at using solar power for their new police station.”

Judy Kekich, Clayton’s communications coordinator, agreed.

“We’ve always tried to stay on the cutting edge of environmental initiatives,” Kekich said. “We were one of the first communities in St. Louis County to initiate the single-stream recycling program where glass, plastic and aluminum could all go in the same container.”

Renewable energy credits can be distinguished from carbon credits, Bambini said. While carbon credits attempt to offset the environmental harm done by direct emissions, such as car exhaust, renewable energy credits offset indirect emissions that are not as easily seen—such as those created when fossil fuels burn at power plants, producing electricity for homes.

“Electricity is produced in a pool that we all share,” Bambini said. “Think of it like a bath tub. The water in the bath tub is the electricity we all need. It has one drain, and you have to use the electricity or it dissipates.”

In the past, only coal, nuclear and hydro-power “faucets” contributed to the Missouri power pool, she said. Now, though, Missouri is developing wind faucets.

“When you buy a renewable energy credit, you are helping green power sources grow,” Bambini said. “You’re helping the green water and slowing the drip on the fossil-fuel faucet.”

The partnership is in the home stretch of reaching the 670 MWh milestone. Initial estimates indicated 300 households and 50 businesses would need to participate.

“We’re three-fourths of the way toward meeting the goal,” Hunter said. “In the end, I think we’ll have mostly businesses that will supply the majority (of energy credit purchases). The response from residents hasn’t been as strong as from the businesses.”

Having a majority of corporate participants works just as well because businesses usually have greater energy needs than households, he added.

The 2-percent reduction to be reached in April of 2011 is only the beginning.

“As we move forward, the levels the EPA is setting to become a green power community are getting higher,” said Elizabeth Simons, a planning intern with the city of Clayton. “This is just a starting point.”