An aerial view of South Portland’s solar array. Courtesy / ReVision Energy

SOUTH PORTLAND — An ambitious plan for combatting climate change and establishing environmentally-friendly regulations in Portland and South Portland is now in the hands of the South Portland City Council.

The council is expected to adopt the plan Oct. 13 following a workshop held Sept. 29. Portland Sustainability Director Troy Moon said the Portland City Council will be reviewing the plan Oct. 26 and is scheduled to vote Nov. 9.

The plan at first glance is nearly overwhelming — 300 pages covering a total of 68 goals, which the report describes as “strategies,” each with its own set of goals and actions covering a range of environmentally-friendly initiatives from solar arrays to energy-efficient buildings.

But the authors insist the plan is organized enough that anyone can follow it, and each of the goals the plan sets forth are not only achievable but will be affordable as well.

“It has to be practical. It has to be actionable,” said South Portland Sustainability Director Julie Rosenbach, one of the officials of both cities who helped put the plan together.

The end result came after 18 months of meetings, presentations, workshops and surveys in both cities. The 68 strategies are grouped together under six principal categories: buildings, transportation, renewable energy, recycling and green industries, protecting natural resources and collaborating with community organizations and partners.

Moon said partnering with the local communities, state agencies, and even neighborhood associations is critical to making the plan work long term.

“It’s a community plan,” he said. “It really depends on actions throughout the communities.”

Both cities have set up a joint website with information about the plan and a viewable copy at https://oneclimatefuture.org.

Julie Rosenbach, South Portland’s sustainability coordinator, and Troy Moon, Portland’s sustainability coordinator, on Portland’s waterfront in February. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

Rosenbach pointed out the plan also touches on needs that go beyond the environment. For example, she said, it’s not just about installing electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city — people need to be able to afford to buy electric cars, too. That means solving economic and social problems will be a part of solving the environmental ones.

“You can’t have climate justice without social justice,” she said.

Very few people spoke at the workshop, but a man identifying himself as Carl Chretien, a builder and remodeler based in Saco, noted the plan doesn’t spell out what projects will cost in the future.

“This is a wish list,” he said. “Most of this does not have any cost-effectiveness disclosed.”

Moon noted that laying out a to-do list with specific projects and costs isn’t the point of the plan. Instead, its purpose is to lay out a road map for sustainability projects over the next 30 years.

“A lot of the things we’re thinking about are in the future,” he said.

Rosenbach and Moon both noted that the plan does mention specific sources of funding that could pay for, or at least help pay for projects in the future, such as grants or funding provided by partner organizations or investors.

“There’s so many ways to finance this stuff,” Rosenbach said.

There are many projects that may pay for themselves in the long run. For example, Moon said, renewable power projects are often built and owned by outside contractors, but once finished they enter into power-purchasing agreements with the municipality and the city buys electricity at a substantial savings.

Rosenbach said that’s already happening in South Portland. The plan clearly reiterates a goal already in place to have 100% of all municipal buildings, including schools, operating on renewable energy by 2040. Already the city has a solar farm on a capped landfill at 929 Highland Ave. providing 12% of the city’s municipal power. At a council meeting Tuesday, councilors approved a power-purchase agreement with outside contractors that will expand that to 80% of the city’s needs. Rosenbach estimated it will save the city as much as $20 million over the lifetime of the project.

Moon stressed that the plan’s authors have considered cost of implementation as a factor, and acknowledged it will take more than taxpayer dollars to make it work.

“To think that we’re going to fund this on the backs of taxpayers in Portland and South Portland, that would just be unfair and not equitable,” he said.

Caricchio acknowledged that cost might be a factor in future projects, but putting this plan in place doesn’t commit anyone to spending anything yet, and the plan will help guide work in the years to come.

“We cannot afford not to take this kind of action,” she said.

Councilor April Caricchio said she is still reviewing details of the plan, but supports the concept overall.

“I think it’s going to give some power behind our decision-making and is really a guiding document to where we want to go,” she said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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