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Helena City Commission backs 100% clean electricity goals by 2030

The Helena City Commission has unanimously backed a resolution, setting a goal for the community to switch to “100% clean, renewable electricity” by 2030.

The commission chambers were full Monday night, as the commissioners considered the resolution.

The measure states leaders need to act “swiftly and decisively” to address impacts from climate change, and that setting a clean energy goal would be an important step. It lays out some possible actions city leaders could take to move toward the clean energy goal.

Some of the actions include improving energy efficiency and installing renewable energy resources at city-owned properties, and expanding a loan program to encourage homeowners to make energy improvements.

About 30 people spoke in favor of the resolution. No one spoke against it.

“Thank you very much for bringing this resolution and trying to put us on the right side of science and the right side of history,” said Bob Adams.

The Missoula City Council approved a 100% clean energy resolution last year. A number of people who testified said the vote would set an example for other communities.

“We have this wonderful opportunity in Helena to become the showcase in Montana for a clean energy movement,” said Tim Holmes.

The resolution says Helena currently gets about 39% of its electricity from fossil fuels. Supporters say the only way to bring that percentage to zero will be to work with – or pressure – utilities like NorthWestern Energy to add more renewable energy resources.

Jonathan Matthews argued companies like NorthWestern would be more likely to move toward renewable power if they got a clear signal that customers wanted to see that.

“Here’s our chance,” he said. “You have a chance.”

City Commissioner Andres Haladay said the resolution will only be a beginning, and that city leaders will have to become more forceful in advocating for transitioning to cleaner power.

“We all – this commission, all of you – need to continue to challenge all of our public entities, all of our community members and our neighbors, to keep doing their work,” he said.

Patrick Judge, Helena’s sustainability coordinator, said he has been talking to a number of city departments about specific actions they can take in this year’s budget cycle to support clean energy goals.