Days before the Sanibel City Council met to discuss their city’s Strategic Plan, the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Group held a public community meeting on the potential of renewable green energy to power the islands’ future. The group, comprised of concerned citizens and business leaders, hopes to see Sanibel Captiva lead on climate adaptation, as well as greenhouse gas mitigation. The Powering Our Green Energy Future event, co-hosted by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation and the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce was billed as a ‘community conversation’, with residents and businesses providing feedback on the priority they place on this issue and ways they support the community moving forward. Growing Climate Solutions is a proponent of a Community Conversation engagement model, as it serves to both educate stakeholders and hear their perspectives and concerns. The Community Conversation format also allows elected leaders to assess community acceptance of potential policy advancements and identify issues the public seeks to prioritize.
The May 9th evening program, held at the Sanibel Community House, featured four speakers:
- Dr. Carrie Schuman, explaining the impacts of climate change on the islands and the need to mitigate greenhouse gasses;
- Dr. Simeon Komisar, explaining how energy conservation and renewables can be cost-effective climate solutions;
- Mr. John Lai, who presented the economic impacts of climate change on business and the potential opportunities in terms of jobs, and;
- Mr. Bob Moore, who illustrated concrete ways in which solar, electric vehicles and other energy-saving ideas can be implemented
More importantly, we heard from island residents. Through a series of survey questions embedded in the evening’s presentation, we learned that Sanibel and Captiva residents are most concerned about sea level rise, storm surge, and the impacts of climate on harmful algae blooms, and relatively less about heat impacts, economic impacts or impacts on wildlife. Interestingly, 93% of those that participated would feel positive about purchasing from a business that invests in energy efficiency and renewables. Residents would also like to see energy efficiency improvements and solar arrays placed on municipal properties.
For next steps, the Sanibel Captiva Renewable Energy Group would like city staff and elected officials to consider how energy conservation and renewable energy figure into the City’s strategic plan. An approach put forth by the group is to conduct an energy audit to assess where investment would yield the most positive returns. An energy audit, along with a greenhouse gas Inventory provides quantitative measures by which to assess investments in energy conservation and renewables. The group’s greater vision is to increase regional resiliency by promoting investments in the electricity grid, electric vehicle transportation, energy efficiency and conservation, and to increase the deployment of renewable sources.
Growing Climate Solutions understands that Southwest Florida communities are more inclined to invest in protecting property and people from climate impacts than to reduce resource consumption and transform our electric grid to clean energy sources. The latter seem daunting and disruptive, and its success will depend on buy-in from stakeholders across a spectrum of political leaning and value positions.