Wake County

Can Wake County go completely green by 2050?

Solar energy is a way to produce energy from the sun’s rays at little cost. This array of solar panels is in Colorado.
Solar energy is a way to produce energy from the sun’s rays at little cost. This array of solar panels is in Colorado.

Wake County might endorse a transition from fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, a lofty goal that officials say is necessary to combat climate change.

Wake commissioners serving on the county board's growth, land use and environment committee debated a "clean energy resolution" Monday that endorses a shift from fossil fuels like gas and coal to renewable energy such as solar and wind power on the county, state and national level. The full board of commissioners will likely consider the plan in April or May.

"This is mainstream now," said Commissioner Sig Hutchinson. "This is where, ultimately, we need to be going as a county. A resolution of this type sends a message to the community and staff that this is the direction we think is important."

The resolution calls for the shift to "avoid climate catastrophe, to promote job creation and economic growth and protect the Earth for current and future generations from climate catastrophe." It also calls for Wake to establish sector clean energy goals within the year and "actively oppose infrastructure whose primary purpose is transporting or storing fossil fuels in or through Wake County."

Most of the county is powered by Duke Energy, and Commissioner John Burns asked how Wake could realistically reach its goal in the coming decades. It's important, he said, to not set a "pie in the sky" goal.

"We are looking at the issue of whether this goal is possible, but I think setting ambitious goals is an important step in achieving great things," Burns said.

Wake County previously committed to the Paris Accord, which advocates for clean energy sources, efficient infrastructure and climate-companionable economic growth.

County staff will review the latest resolution to determine the cost and benefits, including long-term impacts.

"We are considering it because global climate change is a real and present threat to humanity and the planet, and we all need to do our share to fight it," Burns said.

Orange and Chatham counties have passed similar resolutions, as has Hillsborough.