Citizens question carbon reduction priority

GRU’s interim Chief Sustainability Officer Eric Walters placed an emphasis on the social aspect of the utility's work.
GRU’s interim Chief Sustainability Officer Eric Walters placed an emphasis on the social aspect of the utility's work.
Photo by Glory Reitz

Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) solicited community input at a meeting on Wednesday as part of its preparation of an updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). 

The IRP should be complete around the beginning of 2024. Based on computer model projections for the next 30 years, the IRP is a guide for GRU’s immediate actions to protect the future. The projections will include scenarios and sensitivities, which were the topic of Wednesday’s meeting. 

Brad Kushner, a consultant with Acuity Design Group, presented four scenarios, or possible futures, that GRU could have to deal with. While current trends continued in the baseline scenario, other possibilities will look at higher prices for renewable energy utilities, a rapid rise of electric vehicles and the impact of high inflation. 

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“We’re not picking a future and saying, hey, this is the future we choose to live. We’re looking at a bunch of ‘what ifs,’ and we do that by looking at scenarios,” Kushner said as he presented the scenarios to gathered community members

GRU has two gas turbines set to retire in 2026 and a steam turbine scheduled to close down the following year. Though Kushner said GRU could continue meeting peak demand until 2032, the IRP looks to consequences in later years to recommend what changes could be made in the next five years to stabilize. 

Brad Kushner presented the four scenarios and six sensitivities GRU will run through its computer model.
Photo by Glory Reitz Brad Kushner presented the four scenarios and six sensitivities GRU will run through its computer model.

Kushner’s presentation also included various sensitivities, including the reduction of peak energy demand, increased capability for off-system/market purchase and the reduction of CO2 emissions. 

Most of the community members who came to the meeting had questions surrounding GRU’s CO2 reduction efforts. The IRP preparation Kushner presented includes possibilities for GRU to meet the city commission’s 2018 resolution to be carbon neutral by 2045, but it also plans to consider a 75% reduction of 2005’s actual CO2 emissions by 2045. 

While scenarios are possible futures that involve changes in multiple variables, sensitivities will be run through the computer model independent of any other change, with base rates for all other variables. Several attendees said they felt concerned the “sensitivity” designation does not give appropriate priority to carbon emissions. 

“I am concerned that the urgency of the environmental aspects of sustainability aren’t being taken seriously, even though they’ve been included in the models,” Jaime Suárez Roy, a community member, said. “I’m hopeful that with community feedback that will change, but it’s critical that we move quickly towards sustainability in the next decade in order to secure a livable future.” 

Other attendees, including Alex Hamilton, expressed worry over the authority board which is set to take over GRU in October. The authority board is part of a state intervention to salvage GRU’s profitability by taking control of its operation. The board will have the final say on GRU’s plans, and according to HB 1645, the bill which gave the state authority, it must focus on profits, specifically excluding “the furtherance of social, political, or ideological interests.” 

“We don’t know how much of this [IRP] is actually going to inform the board’s decision, if any at all,” Hamilton said. “They could just say no, we’re just gonna focus on economic bottom line, what’s the cheapest thing for us to do, and just follow that.” 

Eric Walters, GRU’s interim chief sustainability officer, said the utility will work on a balanced approach for the plans it brings to the board. He said GRU will be prepared to work with the board to address all its responsibilities. 

“You can’t ignore economics because it has to be a factor in your decision,” Walters said. “You cannot ignore the impacts of the environment, because it has to be a factor in your decision-making. And neither can you ignore the people or the social aspect.” 

Other attendees wondered if GRU could work to educate corporations and the community about conserving their energy use. 

Walters said the utility can only push so far with education. In the end, customers make decisions about things like when to leave their lights on, based on factors that can be difficult to predict or generalize. 

“You can look at an average customer, but it’s really just a mathematical representation of all your customers. Customers all do sort of their own thing for different reasons,” Walters said. 

Wednesday’s meeting was part of a series of workshops GRU is using to inform a new IRP. The last IRP, done in 2019, addressed Gainesville’s 2045 zero emission goals in the rise of electric vehicles, an increase in customers, aging facilities and more. 

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Net zero climate change policies are irrational and unsustainable.


Hopefully the state appointed board will make better longterm decisions. Forget about trendy politics.


Maybe you can’t ignore economics but they’re ignoring the elephant in the room which is the Biomass Plant, which puts out more 1.5 x’s more CO than GRU’s coal plant. I don’t have a problem with community engagement but this farce seems to be a big waste of time.


This sounds like a lot of woke kids speaking and asking questions, kids who won’t make those “environmental” sacrifices in their own personal lives. GRU needs to concentrate on not getting bankrupt by not getting into programs it does not need to get into, like the “furtherance of social, political, or ideological interests.” If they do their job properly, then they will function in a more economic way, keeping the household bills low, helping the poor and sick keep their AC on in the heat of the summer. Can you imagine GRU going solar? How many acres of forested areas need to be destroyed? How many batteries are needed? How much minerals will need to be mined, put together in a factory, shipped, flown, trucked, installed… The “zero emission by 2045” sounds ideal but like most of the laws that pass through Congress, the titles sound nice but the legislation is crap.


It’s amazing how much snake oil can be sold based on the prognostications of ‘experts’. Experts who make their living describing how bad life can be without snake oil.


Is it a Crime for Mayors, Commissioners and prop speakers to be shallow minded, prejudice, and ignorant?

Gainesville Dad

A large amount of GRU ratepayers–I have heard up to 40%–are not allowed to vote in Gainesville elections because they live in the surrounding county.

Yet, they have to pay for the disastrous legacy of bad deals and financial mismanagement starting at least as far back as debutant Mayor Pegheen Hanrahan and her ill-advised and hysterical crusade to make a small university town adopt the irresponsible agenda (and insane costs) of the failed Kyoto Protocol, just so she could impress the other bored ladies in her book club.

These ratepayers are now stuck with essentially a stealth tax, as their rates have nearly doubled. Instead of putting their woke nonsense to a vote, where citizens can scrutinize and debate the costs, the city commission just helps itself to all of GRU’s profits and then some in order to fund their pet projects. Essentially taxation without representation, backdoored in through the utility bills.

The failing money-pit that is the GRU Biomass plant is a permanent monument for the incompetence and naivete of local politicians who are easily duped by predatory corporations. P. T. Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute”, and unfortunately they all seem to vote in Gainesville.


And there is total truth with your statement! Can you please run for commission in the city if you are in the city?! Hopefully these people in office right now will be removed! The mismanagement of not only the utility but now with everything they touch. I


The local insanity will continue until the public elects competent leads who know something about governing rather tan imposing delusional social justice agendas