ASU helps Tempe commit to ambitious new energy goals

The University worked on energy strategies and workshops in the run-up to Tempe's energy goals

The Tempe City Council passed a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and carbon neutrality by 2050, a resolution that ASU co-developed.

The commitment, which was passed March 8, is a broad move to push energy goals forward with the expectation that specific plans to meet the goals will follow. 

Lauren Kuby, a Tempe City Council member and manager of community engagement and events for the ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, said Tempe can accomplish the goal with their current renewable energy budget of less than $200,000 a year.

“We’re the first in Arizona to make this commitment to 100 percent,” Kuby said. “I think Tempe is often (making) waves in the desert. That’s always exciting.”

The move surpassed a previous energy goal made in 2014 to reach 20 percent renewable energy for city operations by 2025.

Kuby said Tempe currently relies on 10 percent renewable energy from solar panels on water treatment plants and parking lots. 

“We need to think bigger and bolder, and the way you do that is by creating a framework, not an exact blueprint,” Kuby said. “We know that the technologies that are around today may not even be around in 10 years.”

She said the first step toward the renewable energy goal is to work on increasing energy efficiency, including converting to LED lights and reducing overall energy waste. She said other steps would be to change Tempe’s fleet vehicles to electric vehicles and work with utilities to build solar plants. 

Kuby and Mayor Mark Mitchell led a group of stakeholders, including ASU and Arizona power utilities, to develop the energy goal.  

 An ASU intellectual fusion class developed some possible strategies to meet the Tempe energy goal last fall. The City Council used some of the information as background for the energy proposal. 

Eight engineering students from the Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization professional science master's program and 32 business students were in the class. 

The students estimated cost savings and developed projects that could help Tempe reach its energy goals.

Ronald Roedel, a professor emeritus at the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, said he suggested the class focus on Tempe's renewable energy goal. 

Roedel said the class of 40 was organized into eight teams to develop different strategies to create renewable energy in Tempe. 

"Each of the eight teams had a different portion of the road map or some component that would feed into a plan to help the city of Tempe move forward," Roedel said.

He said ASU students are continuing to work with Tempe on their renewable energy and carbon neutrality goals. 

Lauren Keeler, an assistant professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, conducted workshops and designed a public forum to gauge the public's response to the Tempe energy goals. 

Keeler said the public had an opportunity to give its opinion on the renewable energy and carbon neutrality goals in January 2018. 

People commented with colored sticky notes and posted them to the goals - green meant approve, red meant disapprove.

“The overwhelming majority of the feedback was positive,” Keeler said. “I think the carbon neutrality goal had two red stickies. One was a firm red ‘I don’t like this goal,’ and one was ‘this isn’t good enough, you need to be more ambitious.’"

In addition, Tempe is developing a climate action plan as part of its participation in the Global Covenant for Climate and Energy

According to Keeler, the climate action plan is an outline of how the city plans to meet the targets in the energy goals. 

Kuby said ASU is developing new energy technologies like microgrids and hydrogen fuel cells that could bring more potential to renewable energy in Tempe.

“Tempe is kind of a living laboratory of sustainability right now,” Kuby said. “We have this opportunity to build right and to build in a way that’s going to make our city more livable.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Ronald Roedel is professor emeritus at the School for Engineering of Water, Transport and Energy. He is professor emeritus at the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

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