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Climate activist and former Springfield City Council member Dan Chiles extols the virtues of renewable energy to council’s Community Involvement Committee.
Karen Craigo | SBJ
Climate activist and former Springfield City Council member Dan Chiles extols the virtues of renewable energy to council’s Community Involvement Committee.

Climate activist asks City Hall: Can SGF become an electric city?

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Springfield is perfectly positioned to become an energy hub for the nation, former Springfield City Council member and environmentalist Dan Chiles told members of council’s Community Involvement Committee at a meeting this week. 

All council members were present for the meeting. 

Noting Springfield is located just east of the best place in the world for wind-based electricity, referring to the Plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and others, Chiles said the Queen City could become the nation’s “electric city” through council action. 

“Wind is an amazing resource for generating practical electricity,” he said. “What we have is an astonishing, perpetual, never-ending – in fact, growing daily – a cheap renewal energy known as wind.” 

Solar is another opportunity resource, according to Chiles, who said the solar potential of Minnesota alone is about the size of Germany’s. 

Springfield is also well positioned to take advantage of solar energy, Chiles said. 

“Between the two of them, it’s an astonishing resource that’s right next door to us,” he said. 

Chiles suggested city leaders install transmission lines for these resources to major population areas for energy that is not currently in use. 

“That’s known as stranded clean energy,” he said. “It’s there. It’s amazing. It’s the best in the world, but the fact that we’re not using it is an issue.” 

He added, “That’s my pitch today: Springfield should be an electric city.” 

Being an electric city means people would drive electric vehicles, which currently present problems of cost and charging station accessibility. But Chiles said there were similar problems when the first internal-combustion engine cars came on the scene and every road was built for horses. 

He added that the city could recruit companies to locate in Springfield with the enticement of renewable energy.  

“Shareholders across the board of major corporations are being pressured to do something about renewable energy,” he said. 

Missouri currently uses about 10% renewable mix and 90% coal for its energy, according to Chiles, a member of Renew Missouri Advocates, a statewide organization dedicated to energy efficiency. 

By contrast, City Utilities uses 45%-50% renewable energy, according to Gary Gibson, CU’s general manager. 

Chiles added that with renewable energy, money stays in town instead of going to oil producers overseas. 

Chiles appeared before the Community Involvement Committee at the invitation of Councilperson Mike Schilling. His message: It’s not too late for Springfield to take a leadership role. By becoming a Midwest hub for wind energy, Chiles said the city can keep its energy source local and attract industry and jobs. 

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