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Environment

Pinellas pledges it will move to 100 percent renewable energy by mid-century

solar_power panels
Courtesy: Florida Power & Light
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Pinellas County signed on to a plan to completely move to zero emission energy sources by 2050. It's considered more of a target than a concrete goal.

Pinellas County signed on to a plan to completely move to zero emission energy sources by 2050. It's considered more of a target than a concrete goal.

Pinellas County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to join the Sierra Club's "Ready for 100" campaign.

It commits the county to using 40% renewable energy sources by 2030; 100% for operations by 2040; and 100% for the entire county by 2050.

Pinellas Commissioner Rene Flowers said it can be accomplished, because the county is already taking steps, such as electric buses and solar power on county buildings.

"While things are aspirational, I believe we have taken more than just a step, but a giant leap into the direction of resiliency and sustainability in everything that were doing and all that we encompass," she said.

During public comment, Mary Gurkin, of St. Petersburg, told commissioners she supported the plan.

"By taking this renewable energy action, you inspire other leads to address climate change and make Pinellas a livable and safe community," she said, "while bolstering public health, improving air and water quality, and fostering resilience."

Susan Glickman, of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, also touted its benefits.

"Florida sends $64½ billion a year out of state to bring in fossil fuels from elsewhere," she told commissioners. "We have an incredible over-reliance on natural gas. It's 74% reliance on natural gas. So when you do all the things you're going to be doing, from fleet transition to making your buildings more efficient, we will be reducing that reliance on gas."

Commission Chairman Dave Eggers said there will inevitably be some challenges along the way, but believes the county can achieve this goal.

The county is already enrolled in Duke Energy Florida’s Clean Energy Connection Program, which will allow the county to offset its energy consumption through solar power generation starting in 2022. By 2024, the program will offset 40% of the county’s energy usage.

Pinellas Sustainability and Resiliency Program Coordinator Hank Hodde said the resolution solidifies the county’s commitment to a sustainable future.

“Climate change poses a great risk to our low-lying and densely populated county,” Hodde said. “This commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions will help lower that risk and help ensure a brighter future for our communities.”

The new clean energy targets will be incorporated into the county’s Sustainability and Resiliency Action Plan, which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2022.

Pinellas joins nine states, 14 counties, and 180 cities — including Dunedin, Largo, Safety Harbor and St. Petersburg — in adopting the Sierra Club's plan.