Government & Politics

Kansas City wants to power all municipal buildings without carbon by late 2020

Kansas City is pursuing a plan to use carbon-free sources for its electricity by the end of 2020. These solar panels are in rural Vermont.
Kansas City is pursuing a plan to use carbon-free sources for its electricity by the end of 2020. These solar panels are in rural Vermont. AP

A unanimous committee vote Wednesday put Kansas City on a path proponents believe will make it one of the first U.S. cities to power its municipal buildings without carbon.

The resolution, approved by the Finance and Governance Committee, directs Troy Schulte to work with KCP&L to get all of its electricity from sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide — like wind and solar power — by the end of 2020. It also calls for a number of other green initiatives.

The full council is expected to take up the proposal on Thursday.

“I think a lot of cities have made the commitment to try to do it, but they haven’t implemented the actual tasks or items to actually get to that point, so we would be one of the first to really step out and do it,” said Councilman Scott Taylor, 6th District at-large.

Taylor, who is running for mayor, sponsored the resolution.

In addition to eliminating its carbon use, the city wants to achieve Energy Star certification on 90 percent of its buildings by the end of 2023. Under the resolution, Schulte is also expected to work with city departments to ensure at least half of the new buses and sedans the city buys between 2021 and 2026 are all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Finally, Schulte is expected by June 30, 2020, to identify land that could be used to build a solar energy farm. In an interview, he said the city was looking at a site near Kansas City International Airport.

Taylor and Dennis Murphey, the city’s chief climate officer, hoped that if Kansas City took the lead on eliminating carbon, other cities would follow.

Murphey said as the KCP&L largest single customer, the city of Kansas City’s commitment to carbon-free energy would help the company move forward on procuring it.

Taylor said Mayor Sly James and the city remained committed to reducing emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Accord the U.S. agreed to under former President Barack Obama to stem the tide of climate change. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of that agreement in June 2017.

In addition to the environmental benefits, Taylor said the city would see budget savings from operation of electric vehicles compared to those that burn fossil fuels.

Ashok Gupta, senior energy economist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, hailed the proposal in public testimony at the committee meeting. He said the plan was a practical step the city could build on.

“So yes this is just starting with municipal operations and things the city can do,” Gupta said, “but it’s great, in my view, to start with that, and then you can go to the bigger players in the city — businesses and others — and challenge them.”

Allison Kite reports on City Hall and local politics for The Star. She joined the paper in February 2018 and covered Midterm election races on both sides of the state line. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with minors in economics and public policy from the University of Kansas.