Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales’ push for 100 percent renewable energy use by the city government within the next decade passed the City Council unanimously this week amid a conversation about how consolidating municipal facilities might help achieve that goal.
Under Gonzales’ resolution, approved Wednesday night, City Manager Brian Snyder will study how the city might overhaul its energy portfolio and move to only nonpolluting energy sources by 2025. A quarter of the city’s energy now comes from renewable sources, primarily solar installations on municipal buildings. The rest of the power for city facilities comes from the Public Service Company of New Mexico.
Moving away from fossil fuels would place Santa Fe in a class with an increasing number of “green” municipalities nationwide. Already, five U.S. city governments consume only renewable energy, according to the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, and many more have committed to reaching that target in coming decades.
Gonzales also introduced a resolution this week that would amend the city’s investment policy to ensure that its fiscal agent, Wells Fargo, does not put any city funds into fossil fuels.
Gonzales has acknowledged that the proposed eight-year time frame to reach the goal of 100 percent renewable energy is ambitious, but he believes it is achievable, given improvements in solar technology. The city now spends between $5.5 million and $6 million each year on energy costs, he said.
Councilor Mike Harris on Wednesday wanted to know whether the study would consider a consolidation of city facilities as a means of bringing down that number.
“We’re scattered in at least five different facilities, depending on how you count,” Harris said. “Whether it’s energy, personnel — there’s a number of inefficiencies associated with the way we’re organized.”
Gonzales said consolidation would be a key consideration. Retrofitting existing city facilities to be more energy efficient is cost-prohibitive, he said.
The study “opens up the door for the manager and public works director to present a smarter option in how we think about the long-term use of city facilities,” Gonzales said.
Snyder said he had already begun discussing a possible consolidation of city buildings with staff and that he would incorporate into the study those ideas of how the city could economize its spaces.
Harris, mentioning the resolution’s requirement that the study be complete within 90 days, seemed concerned that the time frame was too tight to adequately address what would be such a consequential undertaking.
Snyder said he would not present a finalized plan for city actions but rather recommendations by that 90-day deadline.
Meanwhile, the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission is in the process of composing its 25-year sustainability plan, an overview of short- and long-term policy recommendations for reducing the city’s carbon output and bolstering green initiatives.
John Alejandro, city liaison to the advisory commission, said a draft of the plan would be ready by the first week of November.