In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman has been a leader in taking steps to contend with the deleterious affects with climate change and sea level rise. That includes signing an executive order last August creating the office of sustainability, and now signing a Sierra Club back initiative that aims to have St. Pete become the first city in Florida to depend solely on clean, renewable energy.
The #ReadyFor100 campaign was initiated by the national environment organization last year. It’s goal challenging 100 cities across the U.S. to commit to 100 percent clean energy portfolio.
Celebrating the launch of that campaign, the Florida Sierra Club held a ceremony on Tuesday with dozens of friends and invited guests participating at their St. Petersburg headquarters. That included tours of the building, and more than a half-hour speeches from local officials, as well as from Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the national Sierra Club, who flew in from the West Coast for the occasion.
“I’m thrilled that this is one of the first cities to ignite this movement for 100 percent clean energy,” he said.
Brune is extremely optimistic about the future of the environment in America, saying that the solutions to combatting climate change are cheaper than the problem.
“Solar and wind are cheaper than gas, cheaper than coal, cheaper than nuclear power,” he said, adding that for the first time in world history, civilization can be built with power that is fully safe, secure and sustainable.
Aspen, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas have already achieved the goal of being able to power their communities with 100 percent clean energy, and there are 13 other cities who have signed on to the Ready for 100 campaign, including San Francisco, San Diego, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Columbia, South Carolina.
A city official said it won’t be easy.
“Moving towards 100% clean energy will require significant community wide efforts,” warned Sharon Wright, St. Pete sustainability coordinator.
“It requires buy-in from decision makers, business leaders and residents,” she said soberly. “This effort requires changes in behavior and thinking, and it will require that we discuss these challenges in places that are not always so comfortable, and it may require that we try some new things and take some risks. Aggressive goals wll likely have some upfront costs, but please consider, that no initiative and no early investment in clean energy will also have a cost.”
Among those in the audience of approximately 75 people included Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni, former Hillsborough County Ed Turanchik, and Hillsborough County Commission candidate Pat Kemp, as well as Darden Rice, St. Petersburg City Councilwoman and former Sierra Club staff member.
“Our goals are to drive sustainability into the DNA of the city, so that years down the line, we have it ingrained as a regular way of doing business,” Rice said of the work of the Council and the Kriseman administration. “We might have a different mayor and different city council members, but we want to make sure we leave behind a legacy of sustainability and clean energy that won’t go away.”
In addition to making the occasion regarding St. Pete joining the effort to go 100 percent clean energy, the event was a celebration of the Sierra Club’s statewide Net Zero headquarters on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. The building produces much more energy than it consumers through the use of solar panels, geothermal heat and air-conditioning and tankless water heaters. The office also features cork flooring and recycled carpeting.