Residents call for renewable energy sources


Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2006 at 11:40 p.m.
Residents and some Gainesville city commissioners Monday called for changes to a study being conducted by a city-hired consultant designed to provide an analysis of various ways the city could meet its future energy needs.
About 50 residents joined Commissioners Jack Donovan and Craig Lowe in asking for more renewable energy options in a study being conducted by ICF Consulting, a firm based in Fairfax, Va.
The commission made no decision at Monday's special meeting, but said it would re-examine the issue at a meeting on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium, 200 E. University Avenue.
GRU has proposed building a 220-megawatt power plant, fueled primarily by coal, to meet it's customer's energy demands beyond 2011. The plant would cost between $450 million and $500 million to build, GRU officials said Monday.
ICF last week proposed three additional options they would study: a coal gasification plant that could remove pollutants before the coal is burned; a natural gas power plant; and aggressive conservation and energy efficiency measures designed to reduce customer demand and possibly forestall the construction of a new generator.
While the commission did not make a decision on changes to these options, commissioners did give nods to some of the proposals available. Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said it was her belief the commission would support aggressive conservation as part of any eventual energy proposal, and other commissioners expressed interest in coal gasification.
But residents and some commissioners renewed criticism of these options Monday, arguing that ICF had not given sufficient attention to renewable energy options, small-scale generation distributed throughout the community and the inclusion of conservation measures as part of an analysis of a new generator.
"You need something other than what this consultant is offering you," said Dian Deevey, author of a report for the Alachua County Environmental Protection Advisory Committee critical of GRU's proposal. "I discussed the issue of (a consultant) providing a portfolio of resources to you. A portfolio is not just a generator."
ICF purposely separated the different options in order to give commissioners a clear look at the costs of each proposal, said Judah Rose, ICF's project manager, who participated by telephone in the meeting.
This leaves the commission with the ability of using scaled-down versions of different proposals in combination, Rose said.
The commission hired ICF in November for $345,000, and the company plans to provide a final report on its findings by the beginning of March. Another consulting firm will then review ICF's study.
Hanrahan said the antipathy shown toward ICF's process by many residents put the commission in a difficult position, particularly because the commission chose to select a consultant after questions were raised about whether GRU could provide a truly objective analysis.
"If we get to the end of this and the same people who wanted us to hire an independent consultant are completely discounting what the independent consultant is saying, I don't know what we've gained," Hanrahan said.
Underlying many residents' comments was a caution that the commission should seek to delay a decision on the power plant to allow for new technologies and analysis of changing conditions in the energy market.
"We could put off this decision for a bit," said Gainesville resident Joshua Dickinson. "It will still be a public decision. We need to buy time to give all the options a chance."
Jeff Adelson can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or adelsoj@ gvillesun.com.

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