Updated Climate Action Plan shoots for 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2050

Posted: 8:03 AM, Sep 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-27 22:49:03Z

The City of Cleveland says the future for the power grid rides on solar and wind power. But residents are coming off a summer sprinkled with outages largely due to problems with the grid's equipment.

"We kept thinking, 'Ok, it'll be back,'" said Marilyn Simmons when her power went out over the summer. "In a few hours, it never came back."

Simmons' home stayed dark for 19 hours before power was restored. Around the same time, Citizen Pie had to turn customers away three times in a month because the lights couldn't stay on.

"It's a perfect summer night," said Citizen Pie owner Claudia Young, complaining about losing power because of equipment issues. "It's not a winter storm."

"I would say we're well on our way to being a great, green city on a blue lake," said Cleveland Director of Sustainability Kristin Hall. 

A solar panel sits in the window at the Office of Sustainability in Tower City.

Hall says the goals set by the city, and the solution the summer's power problems are not only greener but more reliable, too.

"[The fixes] make sure that we have more of the microgrid technology that makes it so if there is an outage here, the rest of the community has power," said Hall.

The goal is to have 100% of the electricity that comes from Cleveland Public Power in 2050 be from renewable resources like solar or wind. In the next 12 years, the city wants to be at 25%.

"You have states, countries that have moved a lot faster," said Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis Executive Director Sandy Buchanan. "Some are at 30% now."

Buchanan's non-profit studies energy and the environment and says the technology is good enough right now to power more of Cleveland's grid with renewable energy.

"One of the problems Cleveland Public Power has is it has in the last few years signed 40 to 50-year contracts to get their electricity from coal and natural gas," said Buchanan. "That's exactly the fuels they're trying to get away from."

She says that could slow down what would otherwise be a quicker process.

"First, the production of solar electricity is not enough at this moment," said University of Akron Associate Professor Dr. Yu Zhu.

Dr. Zhu says part of the hundreds of millions of dollars that a project like Cleveland's could cost is for catching the energy, but also storing it.

Cars pass through Playhouse Square Wednesday morning while the traffic lights are dark.

"You use solar electricity at night," said Dr. Zhu. "You use wind electricity when there's no wind."

Hall says the economic payoff kicks in anywhere after 12 to 30 years when the cleaner energy starts to pay for itself.

"Once those hit their return on investment, you're then getting free energy," said Hall.

After the outages over the summer, Cleveland Public Power announced that they are spending millions of dollars on infrastructure upgrades to make sure they can keep the lights on.

FirstEnergy tells News 5:

FirstEnergy’s Ohio utilities, including The Illuminating Company and Ohio Edison in your viewing area, are required to comply with Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) regulations.
Ohio law contains a renewable energy requirement that 12.5 percent of the electricity sold by Ohio’s electric utilities be generated from renewable energy sources by 2026, with at least 0.5 percent from solar sources.
Customers can shop for their electricity supplier and can select an offer that includes renewable energy. For customers who do not shop, we use auctions to secure the needed electric supply for customers, which include a renewable percentage.
Regardless of how the electricity is produced, it would still travel over the same wires to our customers.