Republican Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross was one of Thursday’s keynote speakers during the inaugural SUSTEX conference in Killeen.
His presentation was on how Georgetown became the first and only in Texas to be 100 percent dependent on renewable energy — generated by a 97-unit wind farm near Adrian in the Texas panhandle and a 150 megawatt solar farm in Fort Stockton.
The talk highlighted the good and bad on the initiative.
In 2008, the city — while Ross was a council member — decided to severe ties with Lower Colorado River Authority, which was managing the city’s energy portfolio. The decision was made after elected officials came to an agreement to have Georgetown on 30 percent renewable by the year 2030.
Ross said it wasn’t an easy separation.
“They didn’t have the same vision as we did, and they were not listening to us. So we made, quite frankly to be honest, a decision to make a change,” he said.
In 2016, Georgetown started receiving wind and solar power. That first year, it was at 100 percent due to favorable weather conditions; in 2017 at 90 percent; and then 2018 back to 100 percent, according to the elected official.
Ross stressed that the city does not own the energy and the success has not been consistent, but efficient. The city experienced a $6.7 million shortfall in revenue last year.
Ross said the loss was due to the city purchasing too much energy and declined consumer demand.
“We were wrong in our contracts … the market was in turmoil. However, for the four years before that, we made $18 million so it’s not like we were going bankrupt. So what are we going to do about it? We are going to sell our excess through June 2022,” he said.
Ross also highlighted the city’s recycling program, and its annual Red Poppy Festival, which promotes green energy.
“You become a target to fossil-fueled companies because they believe we are in competition with them. I don’t believe that we are in competition with anybody, because there is room in the market for all kinds of different (of) electricity,” Ross said.
The SUSTEX conference has brought attendees from around the world including China, Finland and Japan to Texas A&M University-Central Texas, where the event was held.
SUSTEX, which stands for Sustainability Texas, has the theme of “Leading the ‘One Planet’ Way,” based from its new master’s of science degree program, One Planet Leadership.
Lucas Loafman, interim dean for the college of business administration, said this is A&M-Central Texas’ first public launch of the program.
“We have had a great turnout today and this is our first,” Loafman said. “The key with sustainability is there is so much to it and conferences like this can help start that conversation on how we can tackle make the world and society better.”
SUSTEX concludes today, from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., with sessions on sustainability in business and education, examining the theoretical and academic aspects of sustainability.
For more information go to facebook.com/SustexSummit.