Casper native leading new 'Alliance for Renewable Energy' push in Wyoming - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Casper native leading new ‘Alliance for Renewable Energy’ push in Wyoming

The Alliance for Renewable Energy of Laramie is using the acronym ARE and wants the community to transition toward a 100% renewable energy infrastructure. (Image courtesy of ARE)

CASPER, Wyo. — Casper native Monika Leininger is the president of the new Alliance for Renewable Energy of Laramie.

Leininger said on Thursday, June 27 that the alliance, which uses the acronym ARE, wants to push their City Council to commit to having Laramie 100% reliant on renewable energy or to commit to becoming carbon-neutral.

She also thinks the alliance can act as a guiding example for other places in the state.

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“We think that this is something that will take hold in other communities in Wyoming,” Leininger said.

The alliance got started in the fall of 2018, but the group launched their Facebook page on Wednesday. Leininger said they’re ramping up their community outreach efforts as they plan to bring their proposal to the City Council.

ARE is drafting a resolution which tentatively looks at 2040 as a date for Laramie to commit to becoming carbon-neutral.

Leininger said the group will present this resolution and research they have conducted to the City Council in August.

This won’t be the first action ARE has been involved in. Leininger said they partnered with the University of Wyoming Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources and the City of Laramie to come up with a “baseline inventory emissions calculator” which departments can use to track their emissions.

Results from those efforts as well as economic analysis conducted by ARE will inform their presentation to the City Council.

Leininger said one of the reasons the alliance was formed was due to concern over how the state is addressing its energy needs.

That includes efforts to keep coal plants in operation but also higher energy bill rates from Rocky Mountain Power.

Leininger said the goal is to have Laramie “install our own renewable energy infrastructure.” She said that would give the community more independence and control of their future in addition to being better for the environment.

Rob Joyce has also been involved in ARE’s efforts to draft the resolution. He said that moving toward more renewable energy sources would come with some large up-front costs, but said that these are likely to pay for themselves in the long run which would free up money that Laramie could use for things like road and school improvements.

Leininger and Joyce said that one of the shorter-term goals is to get the City Council to commit to installing solar panels on municipal buildings and convert their fleet to one that runs on renewables.

Joyce said the turn-around on investments may be shorter than people might expect, adding that Laramie could anticipate recovering the upfront costs of getting their government buildings and services 100% renewable in about eight years.

Leininger said that one of their findings showed that the amount of solar power Laramie would need to install to become entirely reliant on renewables faces some obstacles.

“Our Wyoming laws keep us from installing that large of a capacity,” she said.

But the group isn’t solely focused on solar. Leininger said that all renewables are part of the conversation including things like wind and geothermal and choosing to purchase renewable energy provided by Rocky Mountain Power.

ARE isn’t the first community effort in Wyoming to organize a push for renewables. But Joyce said that a solar initiative in Jackson resulted in the creation of “a whole new utility” which might not be the right approach in other places across the state.

He added that he thinks Albany County may be a good place for such efforts to get started in Wyoming since it does not have as much fossil fuel resources as other parts of the state.

For that reason, Joyce thinks the City Council will at least be receptive to ARE’s proposals.

Specific details of their proposal are still in the works, but Joyce said that over 100 cities in the United States have committed to becoming 100% renewable or carbon neutral.

Some of those communities have set target dates in 2035, 2040 or 2050, and ARE is still figuring out what is best for Laramie.

That’s why they’ll begin to do more community outreach which may include surveying the people of Laramie to get a sense of what they want.

They are also asking people to sign statements of support for ARE’s Carbon Neutral Initiative.

Joyce said that about 20 people have been regularly attending ARE’s meeting and they’ve gotten vocal support from others in the community.

He said that if people in other Wyoming municipalities want to begin similar efforts, ARE would be able to share information about their experiences to help things get started.