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Denton Record Chronicle

Denton renewable resource plan up for council vote Tuesday

City leaders have a few more steps before Denton can claim it is powered with 100 percent renewable energy, but the City Council is expected to take one giant step on Tuesday night. 

The City Council is expected to vote on a new plan that updates Denton's energy portfolio to become "all renewable" by 2020. The Public Utilities Board previously reviewed and approved the plan last month. 

The City Council recently hired Enterprise Risk Consulting to develop the plan. The firm, which is based in Austin and Santa Fe, New Mexico, helped the city  of Georgetown become 100 percent renewable in 2015. If this plan is successful, Denton would become the second Texas city to purchase all of its energy load from wind and solar farms or other renewable energy sources. 

Denton Municipal Electric currently purchases about 44 percent of the city's electricity load from renewable sources, most of it wind farms. About 1 percent of Denton's energy load comes from a small power plant that burns excess methane at the local landfill. 

To reach the goal by 2020, Enterprise Risk Consulting advised DME to solicit more contracts for about 200 megawatts of solar power and 100 megawatts of wind power, preferably from a wind farm on the Gulf Coast. 

In anticipation of the change, DME sought bids on more renewable energy contracts in October. A team is reviewing offers from 40 suppliers and 84 projects. According to a memo to the City Council, DME officials expect to issue one contract soon, but also advised they will likely seek more bids, possibly through a consortium. 

Solar contracts continue to be the highest-rated to meet Denton's energy load, according to the memo. City leaders haven't blinked, so far, at the prospect of a new tax on imported solar panels. The Trump administration recently placed a tariff on imported solar panels. Some advocates say the tariff will spur more domestic manufacturing. Critics say it could make some solar projects less competitive. 

The plan for Denton to go 100 percent renewable also stands on an assumption that the city walks away from coal-fired power by September. Denton and three other cities own the Gibbons Creek power plant near Bryan. The plant operated through the summer of 2017 but has been mothballed, at least for now. The cities have tried, but have been unable to sell the plant.

During a work session Tuesday afternoon, the City Council is also scheduled to continue its long-running talk on ethics reforms. Denton voters ordered new ethics rules in a city charter amendment election in November. The council's ethics consultant will lead a discussion on whether or not to require additional disclosures of local officials as well as possible new rules covering the abuse of information, resources or position. 

The council is also expected to take up a long-awaited discussion on bike-sharing. Some residents have complained the new "dockless" bikes end up on private property, or block streets and sidewalks, when not in use. 

The council work session begins at noon Tuesday and can be viewed online on the city website.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.