City Climate Corner

Columbia MO: One Stop Shop City

Episode Summary

Columbia Missouri is a "One Stop Shop" city, with their own utilities in electricity, water, solid waste, stormwater, and sewer. We interview Office of Sustainability Manager Eric Hempel and explore how their electric utility is an integral part of Columbia's climate goals. We also learn about a Habitat for Humanity net zero home project that has had a wide-ranging impact. Plus, hear from Larry about 15+ MN cities declaring a climate emergency at the same time.

Episode Notes

Columbia Missouri is a "One Stop Shop" city, with their own utilities in electricity, water, solid waste, stormwater, and sewer. We interview Office of Sustainability Manager Eric Hempel and explore how their electric utility is an integral part of Columbia's climate goals. We also learn about a Habitat for Humanity net zero home project that has had a wide-ranging impact. Plus, hear from Larry about 15+ MN cities declaring a climate emergency at the same time.


MN Climate Emergency campaign resources

Episode Transcription

Introduction and MN Cities Declaring Climate Emergency

Abby Finis  00:02

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-size cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  00:23

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co-hosts for City Climate Corner.

Abby Finis  00:29

Hey, Larry. 

Larry Kraft  00:29

Hey, Abby. 

Abby Finis  00:30

You have some exciting news to share with us today.

Larry Kraft  00:34

I do. And, it's not about ice cream. 

Abby Finis  00:37

Good, because it's really cold outside. 

Larry Kraft  00:40

That doesn't matter. So I've been working for ten to eleven months or so with city elected officials from around Minnesota, in a loose organization called the Minnesota Cities Climate Caucus. The things we're doing are to try to share policy best practices, and also to by banding together to have more sway at the state level. And, I came up with the idea about six months or so ago, to jointly declare a climate emergency. Got some motivation on that from Tacoma, Washington from the episode we did there, thank you Tacoma. 

Larry Kraft  01:22

We put together some templates, some tools for people to use, talking points, resolution templates, also based on some of the work that the Climate Mobilization National Organization has done in the past on this issue. And, we wound up with sixteen cities from all around the state that are declaring some form of a climate emergency or something similar in this period of a few weeks. And we chose this time, because our state legislative session starts at the end of the month to get some visibility and to then push the state legislature to look at what they're doing through a climate lens. Especially because a bunch of federal money is coming in, and Minnesota has a historically large budget surplus.

Abby Finis  02:13

That's really cool. Having sixteen cities agree on something. And, it go through councils, you're dealing with a lot of different people and their official positions. What were the conversations like and having some kind of a similar resolution across the cities and being able to pass that?

Larry Kraft  02:34

Yeah, it's a really good question. Because different cities are in different places in the journey on this issue. What we wanted to do is start with a common messaging framework. And so a small group of us put that together with lots of flexibility for the cities to customize for what's going on in their community. Very often with these types of things you start from, here's the global problem, here's the state problem, here's the local problem. And, we flipped that. We started the resolution with the local situation. And because over this past year, climate change has become so apparent, I think, to everyone in Minnesota, with the really bad smoke from wildfires this summer to where even healthy people were encouraged to not go outside. As we talked about before, we had tornadoes touch down in December here, which just has never happened before. And, there has been a flood drought cycle that's really impacted farmers around the state. So we made sure that the local communities could adapt this to what resonated for them. And, if someone says I have trouble with this kind of approach, I have to soften it's like, look, you're accountable to your voters in your community. You need to make this your own. The key message is going to be that there's sixteen-seventeen of us that are coming together to say, "Hey, this is important. We're taking action locally, and we need more support from the state level." And, federal by the way.

Abby Finis  03:59

What do you hope the reaction will be from the state level? What do you hope to see?

Larry Kraft  04:04

We have divided government in Minnesota, there's the house is Democrat, the senate is Republican. We have aimed with this group to be exceptionally nonpartisan; city elected officials tend to be nonpartisan. I want us to have a seat at the table. I want as they look at what they do with this budget surplus to invest a significant portion of it in both climate mitigation and adaptation. Because many cities have huge issues facing the money on stormwater infrastructure, or forestry management, things like that, that they just don't have the budgets to handle. So I'd love to see significant dollars set aside for that. I'd also love to see this generate other cities coming on board and I know that's going to happen. There's several that this timing didn't work for that have started a little late in the process that we'll see become part of this coalition over time. And, then I'd like to see folks in other states do it. So if you're listening intent.

Abby Finis  05:02

Yeah, it's really cool to see the growing momentum around the state and in very much a non partisan way. And, this joint effort will have an impact and be able to continue that conversation and try to use the amount of money that's available from the state and the federal government wisely in building infrastructure that's more resilient in decarbonizing our grid and finding alternatives to natural gas. Giving cities more local control over, you know, how they can implement building energy codes. And 

Larry Kraft  05:36

Yes, please!

Abby Finis  05:36

And, other efforts that support climate action.

Larry Kraft  05:39

Yeah, I think we should be asking them to talk to Abby Finis about what's needed for our state.

Abby Finis  05:46

They can listen to the podcast.

Larry Kraft  05:49

Speaking of the podcast, if you like what you're hearing, please support us. Go to our website, click on the Support Us link, or go to our store. Cool merch there.

Abby Finis  06:00

But yeah, we have an episode today. And we're talking to Eric Hempel of Columbia, Missouri. What's our conversation about?

Larry Kraft  06:06

We started this talking about solar with him. And, that's a really good story in Columbia. But, I was excited to find this other nugget of things they're doing started around solar, but with individual homes, affordable housing, targeted homes. And so I think there's a really cool story there. 

Abby Finis  06:26

Let's give it a listen. 

Larry Kraft  06:27

Let's do it. 

Start of interview

Larry Kraft  06:30

Today, we are speaking with Eric Hempel, who is the manager of the Office of Sustainability in Columbia, Missouri. Welcome to City Climate Corner, Eric. Can you introduce yourself and just tell us a bit about the City of Columbia?

Eric Hempel  06:45

As you said, I am the manager of the Office of Sustainability. Columbia is in the middle of the state, in the middle of the country. We are politically or community wise in the middle a lot too. Columbia is about 120,000 people. We've got a couple of colleges and the university here at the University of Missouri. So we have a lot of student population. And, that influences a lot of what happens here and the priorities and the character of the town for sure. That's kind of our context here. The Office of Sustainability has been around for about ten years. And it has gone through some evolution,

Larry Kraft  07:29

Those young people can be pretty influential, can't they?

Eric Hempel  07:32

Absolutely, yeah, we got a small town feel, but really have some influences with the university and the different colleges that really helped a little bit of a bigger town feel.

Office of Sustainability and the Climate Action Plan

Larry Kraft  07:44

As sustainability manager, and I think you're relatively new to the role, I imagine your role can be quite broad. Can you tell us more about it and what your office is doing around climate action?

Eric Hempel  07:57

You're right, I am relatively new to the position, it's been about seven months. I've been working at the City of Columbia for about ten years, though in several different positions. So that does help support the breadth of the work that we do in sustainability. The other thing that really is an asset, I think, to the city as a whole and then also our work in sustainability, is we call ourselves a full service, one stop shop city. We have our own utilities in water, electricity, solid waste, stormwater, and sewer. So we really are able to affect, with our own local control, quite a number of the major players in greenhouse gas mitigation and climate action in general. 

Eric Hempel  08:50

Some of the things that we're involved in, we've got a community conservationist in our office, who works with the Public Works Department, Parks and Recreation, and the Utilities to help them use more native plants, particular pollinator and prairie plants in place of mowing fescue. So places along right aways, medians, areas where we would have to spend a lot of time and energy and money, maintaining fescue. So with the addition of these more deeply rooted native plants with providing habitat benefit, infrastructure benefit, and saving money and reducing emissions. 

Eric Hempel  09:38

We also work with our electric utility, promoting and supporting their energy efficiency programs. Our electric utility has had energy efficiency programs for about the last thirty years. It really started with home energy audits, and helping folks understand things that they can do for low or no cost to reduce their energy bills and water consumption to a certain agreement. Mostly focused on energy that's evolved through the past couple of decades into rebate programs for energy efficiency, insulation, air sealing HVAC systems, as well as rooftop PV. We do a lot of guiding people to the right resources within the city, and then also do our best to try to show the impact of those programs on our emissions and energy use and how helpful they can be. And, I think that's part of the job of the Office of Sustainability, the City as a whole and the utility part of the just transition, that we're providing better jobs for people who are here now, in the project development, or the project maintenance. Really trying to develop a workforce that can handle and benefit from those projects.

Larry Kraft  10:56

I'd read that you have a fairly recent climate action plan from a couple years ago, is that right?

Eric Hempel  11:02

Yeah, that's right. We started working on that in 2017. It was the first big project that the Office of Sustainability undertook, after we reorganized from an office of two to an office of seven. We were able to staff that project really well. That was my first big project along those lines. We had the opportunity to get a lot of community input. And, I think we did a pretty good job. I'm very happy with the amount of input that we're able to get from interested community members on what the final product looks like as far as our climate action adaptation plan. So we worked on that for about two years, we have a wide ranging and vicious Climate Action Plan. And, now what we're in the middle of is its implementation, and reporting on that. It's been a journey, certainly for the evolution of our Office of Sustainability, and also for the City and the staff. The way we're implementing that is with cross sector, cross functional teams. We'll have five different teams with staff from sixteen different departments, really benefiting from the breadth of the city services that we provide, to provide expertise in how we implement our fleet electrification plan, our useful Building Energy benchmarking policy. We would be nowhere if not for the help of all of our staff, not just the Office of Sustainability,

Larry Kraft  12:38

What are the overall goals of your climate action plan?

Eric Hempel  12:42

Our overall goal is net zero emissions by 2060. Our interim goals are thirty-five percent reduction over our 2015 baseline emissions by 2035, and eighty percent reduction by 2050. So on our journey to net zero in 2016, we have those two, check in points. We also have some municipal goals. Boy, I believe it's fifty percent reduction for municipal operations by 2035. And then one hundred percent reduction by 2050. A little more ambitious, because we do have that control. A big part of how we developed our actions in the climate action plan was to lead by example, and then also to try to incentivize change before mandates. And, we try to stick to that as much as possible. So far, it's been it feels successful.

Solar in Columbia

Abby Finis  13:42

One of the areas where the City has seen a lot of success is through an increase in solar adoption.

Eric Hempel  13:48

I think probably the strongest promoter of rooftop PV in Columbia has been the municipal utility. The utility service division has a really great set of rebates. Most of our residential systems are about six to seven kW, and so they fit in the rebate structure at the highest incentive level. A system, say of seven kW will get anywhere from $375 to $625 per kW in rebates. And there's a range there, because the way the rebate is structured, incentivizes PV systems that match the utilities peak, which is in the later hours of the day in the summertime.

Abby Finis  14:40

So are those one time incentives or do they calculate production incentives based on the capacity?

Eric Hempel  14:49

So those yes, those are one time upfront incentives paid after the system has been approved. As far as ongoing there's not a productive incentive, but there is the net metering arrangement. What's required by law in Missouri is not the retail rate, it is the avoided cost rate, whatever the utility would pay for that energy, that's the minimum that they're required to pay. What the municipal utility in Columbia pays is the retail rate. So that's a much larger monetary incentive. It's a true up on an annual basis. 

Abby Finis  15:29


Eric Hempel  15:30

So instead of having a monthly true up, you're able to actually get credit over the entire year for overproduction.

Abby Finis  15:39

Yeah, that makes sense, allowing those summer months to count more than the shorter days of winter. You talked a little bit about there was a range because they wanted to match with peak. Does that then matter where you locate the solar and what time of day you're capturing or how they factor that in?

Eric Hempel  15:58

So that's done through a modeling process. We use the end rails system advisor model. So SAM, we use that to model the orientations of panels. West facing panels get in the higher rebate range, than south or east facing panels. So that's the majority of what's accounted for in the range. There's also a shading analysis that takes place, but the contractors are responsible for submitting. There was definitely a learning curve with contractors. But, the utility did a great job of providing training and loaner equipments to do the shading analysis. So really try to have a cooperative relationship with the contractors to make sure that everybody's getting what they need.

Abby Finis  16:45

Yeah, it sounds like the utility is pretty receptive to enabling more solar. Are there other programs that they offer?

Eric Hempel  16:52

I should mention also, that the rebates are available to both residential and commercial customers. 

Abby Finis  17:00


Eric Hempel  17:00

The rate structures are more favorable for the smaller commercial customers, but at the larger commercial and industrial customer wanted to put PV on their system that they need to qualify for the rebates too. So there are solar loans. We have loan programs that are financed through the utility and for residential customers can loan up to $15,000 and up to $30,000, for commercial customers.

Abby Finis  17:28

Are those loans paid back through the utility bill? Or is there a separate financing entity?

Eric Hempel  17:34

They are paid back through the utility. We don't have it worked out just yet to have it be paid back through the utility bill.

Larry Kraft  17:42

You mentioned to me before, so you have stuff for solar water heaters, but that's one that maybe hasn't worked as well as the others, right? 

Eric Hempel  17:50

Yeah, that's true. We haven't had a near the uptake on solar water heaters, as on any of the other programs. I'm not exactly sure why. My best guess is that the financial incentive just isn't there. We do have fairly low natural gas rates. And, there's a pretty high prevalence of natural gas water heaters. So I think you throw in those things and the switch is not as straightforward maybe as PV.

Utility renewable energy goal

Larry Kraft  18:24

Utilities also looking into how it can add more renewables. Currently about thirty percent renewable and a goal is to be one hundred percent by 2035. Do I have that right?

Eric Hempel  18:38

We have an ordinance that was developed in the early 2000s that establishes an end goal of thirty percent renewable by 2030. We are just about fifteen percent right now. Now we've got a climate action plan that, you're right, calls for one hundred percent renewable by 2035. And, so the utility just went through integrated resource planning process to try to figure out how they can meet the requirements of the Climate Action Plan, both for renewable energy and then also how can they contribute to the broader emissions goals. In their plan, they looked at building like vacation and electric vehicles and how that could change the loads and what that might mean for utility planning. So a good bit of our renewable comes from wind, that's the major component. I don't think that's likely to change too much in the near future. But, the utility is looking at citing local renewable projects. And largely those are solar. We have a newly added 10 megawatt solar field, just on the east side of town. And, then a little bit north there's also plans for another fairly large solar installation. But, for right now the utility gets some from local, but most of the renewable energy is done through PPAs. Some are in Missouri, some are in Iowa.

Larry Kraft  20:08

Ten megawatts. I wish we had room for that that in St. Louis Park.

Eric Hempel  20:11

How big is St. Louis Park?

Larry Kraft  20:13

We're about 50,000 people, but we're fairly well developed. 

Abby Finis  20:17

Larry, you've got a goal for thirty-nine megawatts, so you better find the space.

Larry Kraft  20:23

A roof, lots of roof.

Eric Hempel  20:24

That's an area that I would love to see some more planning and development is just understanding what sort of cooperative agreements could develop between the utility and homeowners?

Larry Kraft  20:38

What are the benefits to the utility of moving towards more renewables? I imagine part of it is to meet the Climate Action Plan. But, are there other things that they see that hey, this is good for us, because of X, Y, or Z?

Eric Hempel  20:51

The long term projections are cost stability, that PPA that we have for that ten megawatt solar field is a very competitive for megawatt hour price. There's not an escalator in the cost. I think that's largely due to you don't have a fuel source, you don't have variability in the cost to the same degree that there is with fossil fuels. That's a major plus. I think your first answer that they need to comply with the climate action plan. It's one of the big benefits to them to stay in compliance with that. We do have a really active and interested community and the city council right now is very supportive of the Climate Action Plan.

Abby Finis  21:37

Are you saying that fossil fuels have volatile pricing and we're all facing higher energy costs this winter?

Eric Hempel  21:46

Yeah, I think that's definitely a real possibility. I wish I could see your face, because I'm pretty certain that your tongue is really sticking in your ear. 

Habitat for Humanity Netzero Home and its Impact

Abby Finis  21:55

But, I do think there's an aspect of local energy, like solar panels, where there's tangibility to it, and you can see it on people's rooftop. You can see the direct impact on your bills, and you have a couple of projects where solar is being placed on Habitat for Humanity homes, through the Community Land Trust, and really bringing that clean energy that also reduces bills and provides more education around where does our energy even come from, to people who live in those homes. Can you tell us a little bit about those programs?

Eric Hempel  22:34

That is such an important part to really make energy use and renewable energy more tangible. It really helps to raise the the energy literacy of the people in the house. As far as understanding, if I use more energy than my solar panels are producing then now I do have to buy some energy from the grid creates a better understanding of how that whole system works. As far as the Habitat for Humanity projects, and then like Columbia Community Land Trust projects, really that comes down to the initiative of the folks developing those projects and saying, "Yes, these are affordable houses, and they need to be super efficient. And they need to have solar panels." So really working a lot of different angles to make sure that all those houses have solar arrays on them. 

Eric Hempel  23:26

A huge amount of housing affordability is energy cost. So the Habitat for Humanity netzero house is a project that happened six or seven years ago now. It was funded through the Federal Housing Urban Development funds that the City of Columbia receives in the HOME and CDBG programs. And it was really designed to try to just see what we can do. How far can we push a cost of an energy efficient house, and then also, can we find the resources locally to actually make this house get up out of the ground? We added some new requirements to make this Habitat for Humanity house net zero, and lo and behold, they're able to do it. And, that house has been running on all electric, it's been producing more electricity through its solar array in a year than it consumes. So it's been truly Net Zero, better than net zero and set an example, as far as what affordable housing and then also what the builders of affordable housing can do. 

Eric Hempel  24:36

And, to dispel some of the myths that they've got to be super high tech buildings that require a lot of super advanced construction techniques and materials. There's some different materials and some different techniques, sure. But, now we're looking at two community land trust neighborhoods that all have solar PV on top, and they've actually developed a really rotating solar fund in the Columbia Community Land Trust projects to help offset the cost of future solar installations.

Abby Finis  25:12

I really like to hear and share those examples. Because you're absolutely right that energy affordability is a big part of housing affordability and a more energy efficient home is also a healthier home for indoor air quality and other reasons. And, you know, just sparked in my mind, the fire in New York this past weekend, that was caused by a space heater and having that kind of inadequate building design and performance can be deadly. So it's not just about the energy side of it or solar panels, but it's about creating these livable spaces for people to have a higher quality of life in a home that they can afford.

Eric Hempel  25:54

One of our department interdepartmental climate action adaptation plan teams is called the healthy housing team. We've been wrestling with rental energy efficiency standards or incentives or some way to help ensure that rental properties meet some sort of standard of energy efficiency. We've been wrestling with that as a community for years. And so this healthy housing group has taken that project as well. They're working on a program to identify homes where indoor air quality might be an issue using asthma referrals, as a way to identify homes, where indoor air quality improvements could be made along with energy efficiency improvements, the idea of energy efficiency and healthy homes, they really do go hand in hand. And, it is a right for everybody to be able to enjoy that, I believe.

Larry Kraft  26:49

I love that it started with the Habitat for Humanity home and then spread from there to the Community Land Trust, and all these other things that are emanating out from just going and doing it once and learning and realizing that you can.

Eric Hempel  27:02

Yeah, another thing that I forgot to mention in that story is that the water and electric utility has been a great partner in all of those projects. Helping to make sure that the land trust properties have PV, and then in addition to providing rebates for the PV on the Habitat house, and net zero house, they also helped with some funding on an ARV energy recovery ventilator, which at that time was something that locally we didn't have much experience with at all. So really being able to provide a space to understand how best we can implement that technology and see the results. And, the partnerships that we were able to start and develop also been helpful in the later iterations.

Local Control and Building Energy Codes

Larry Kraft  27:45

As we were chatting earlier, and we talked about local control and I salivate over the ability you have to work directly with the utility that's part of the city, designing these programs and getting them on board. But you have additional control, right? On things like building codes. 

Eric Hempel  28:07

Yeah. So that's another area that the Office of Sustainability works with other city departments on. I guess it was probably in 2016, when we adopted the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code. And because we're a Home Rule state, communities in Missouri can decide to adopt local building codes. And, the city council at that time was in support of making the shift to the 2015 IECC. Did the same in 2018. And, now we're in the process of reviewing the 2021 IECC. If everything goes to trend, then yeah, we'll be implementing and enforcing the 2021 IECC. It is very helpful. We definitely see an improvement in the energy efficiency of the new builds for sure. One thing that I think also helps, and I mentioned this a little bit with Habitat for Humanity house, that also just helps to raise a level of skill and awareness of how do you get a more energy efficient house and it becomes less of a less of a novelty, less of an add on. It becomes more business as usual. I think that helps us all.

Larry Kraft  29:23

So within Missouri, then you will have different cities that may have different building codes that they follow? 

Eric Hempel  29:29


Larry Kraft  29:30

And, the builder community development hasn't imploded from that?

Eric Hempel  29:38

No, it hasn't actually.

Larry Kraft  29:40

Just hoping that there's some legislators from Minnesota that are listening right now.

Eric Hempel  29:45

Yeah, the building committee has not imploded. We've had a gangbuster year, as far as I hear in building starts and development plan reviews. Everybody's been really busy on that floor of City Hall, even with our building codes being more efficient than even Boone County, which is where Columbia is located. And, we have that conversation about well, if we just if we do this here in the City of Columbia, then it's going to drive development to outside of the City of Columbia. I'm not aware of any scientific study that proves or disproves that. 

Larry Kraft  30:26

But y'all are doing all right. 

Eric Hempel  30:28

Well, so far, we're doing okay. Yeah. Since 2016, we've still managed to build houses.


Abby Finis  30:33

Well, it seems like there are a number of advantages to working with your municipal utility to advance renewable goals. What advice do you have for other cities that maybe have goals or want to push on this, and they do have municipal utilities, and maybe they haven't tapped into that yet?

Eric Hempel  30:51

Something that's really been helpful to me, is to try to learn as much as I can about the utility business case and to understand where those priorities are. And, then recognize that my priorities as a sustainability office employee might be different, or I might be saying the same thing, just using different language. I think that there's a lot of common ground that gets missed or overlooked or unused because we don't really understand what the other is saying. A lot of my advice just falls into treating your colleagues as people and recognizing that a lot of this is new for everybody. And, people are trying to do their job. And, not trying to obstruct progress just because they have a different idea. Change is tough. 

Abby Finis  31:45

Put that on a pillow change is tough. 

Eric Hempel  31:48

Yeah, okay. 

Abby Finis  31:50

Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Eric Hempel  31:51

It's H-e-m-p-e-l.

Abby Finis  31:53

What was that?

Eric Hempel  31:54

Oh, that's how you spell my last name for the pillow.

Abby Finis  31:57

Okay. You got it. Thanks for joining us on City Climate Corner.

Larry Kraft  32:05

Yeah, thank you. And, that pillow is coming in the City Climate Corner Store.

Abby Finis  32:08

Yeah, right!

Eric Hempel  32:11

Awesome. Awesome.

Abby and Larry debrief

Larry Kraft  32:14

All right, Abby. What did you think? What are your takeaways? 

Abby Finis  32:18

What stuck out to me the most, and perhaps it's because I'm knee deep in our own efforts to improve the building code and in our state is the importance of having high quality buildings and what that means beyond energy. And so these Habitat Homes Land Trust, and keeping the building code up to date isn't just about quality construction, but also how it impacts people's lives from having lower energy bills, which we know is a big problem. When you have lower incomes, you know, severe energy burden starts at about ten percent of your income go into energy bills. We know that lower income households pay a higher proportion of their income on energy bills, because they can't always afford to make the upgrades that are needed. And so if we're starting from that, as a place that's in the design of the buildings, I think that it's not only going to lead to lower energy bills, but more comfortable homes, better air quality indoors, I can't express enough how important it is to just simply build better, and have a more durable building stock.

Larry Kraft  33:34

And I find it fascinating that this one also Santa Barbara brought this up too, that the affordable housing providers were very supportive of the natural gas ban. Sometimes you hear pushback of, well, you know, things you do on energy efficiency and renewable energy are going to make homes unaffordable. But, I think it's great when it's a Habitat for Humanity home targeted at affordable housing, that proves you can do a netzero home. And, then the Community Land Trust there picks up threads from that and builds it into other things they're doing.

Abby Finis  34:11

Yeah, I think it's great. And, I love to hear those stories. And the more we can share that and demonstrate that it works and it can pencil out and it's just simply better across the board. The other thing was the cooperation between the city and the municipal utility. And I think that that is sometimes overlooked, because maybe you have a municipal utility that has high revenue from the natural gas that it's selling, or it's dependent upon selling fuels only electricity for its revenue source. So maybe the incentives aren't always the same, but just underscoring the importance of having human to human conversations, finding the areas where there's agreement and there's shared incentives and moving in those directions with your utility. There's other entities that cities can think about housing authorities, health departments within their community where there's this crossover between energy and housing and health and more affordable energy through purchasing renewable electricity.

Larry Kraft  35:15

I really liked how the utility the way they were incenting, the solar panels, the right orientation, so that it maximized the amount of energy coming at their peak time when it's most expensive to them. It's aligning the financial benefits and the needs of the utility with those of the community. 

Abby Finis  35:37

Yeah, I think those utility structures can be really interesting because it's like, you can align with peak and kind of shave the peak with solar. You could use time of use rates right now use time of use rates to try to get people to use energy in off peak time of day. But, we could also align it with when there's more wind on the grid, there's more solar on the grid, you know, and try to match use with the times a day when renewable energy is abundant too. And, I think that a lot of people are looking into these different financing and timing mechanisms that can put that power to really good use and maximize clean energy.

Larry Kraft  36:19

I will also have to say I did salivate about this during the episode, but the fact that Columbia is able to set their own building codes for their city is pretty interesting. Here in Minnesota we can't, the state has to do it, but it works for them.

Abby Finis  36:39

Yeah, we're gonna have to get you a napkin after episodes like these.

Larry Kraft  36:46

All right.

Abby Finis  36:48

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  37:12

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft. Edited by me. Our production assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by…

Abby Finis  37:20

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Larry Kraft  37:23

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.