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Hamilton explores 'green' energy

By Jessica Barga
On November 12, 2012

Hamilton, Ohio is a city most Miami University students know for its branch campus, but with a strong push to implement green initiatives and policies, it may soon be known for becoming the first city in the U.S. to provide carbon dioxide (CO2) free energy for its residents.

According to Chris Lawson, assistant to Hamilton's city manager, Hamilton currently operates a hydroelectric plant on the Ohio River that produces 35 percent of the city's energy in a carbon-free way.

"We recognized that we had not taken full advantage of those efforts for other types of sustainability," Lawson said, who completed his master's degree at Miami in 2011.

The eventual plan for the city is for 70 percent of its energy to be carbon-free by the end of 2014, making it the only city in the country to do so. With a new hydroelectric plant being constructed, the remaining energy will be offset by the use of Renewable Energy Credits, according to Lawson.

Renewable Energy Credits work as a way for companies or individuals to offset their CO2 emissions. The credits are purchased at market rates and the money goes to funding other types of environmentally friendly energy, such as solar or wind power, Lawson said.

"You can clearly and distinctively say that you've reduced your carbon footprint down to zero and fostered renewable energy [funding]," Lawson said.

The benefits of being green will attract businesses and clean industry to Hamilton, according to Lawson.

"Companies located in Hamilton currently already have a green focus...we are rebranding our business incubator, focusing on clean technology, alternate fuel sources, biomaterials, and so on," Lawson said.

To boost these efforts, Ohio's first clean-energy Ecological Enterprise Park will be developed in Hamilton. The park will function like an industrial park, but with green companies, according to Lawson.

"This will promote human and corporate interaction, high-tech and clean industry, along with environmental responsibility and stewardship," Lawson said.

Other green policies around the city will include citywide composting, vehicle fleets being outfitted for compressed natural gas and an urban agricultural ordinance, according to Lawson.

Another policy will be a sustainable purchasing program, wherein products and services to be purchased will be examined to make sure the way they are produced is environmentally friendly and healthy.

"This process lowers costs and makes us more competitive," Lawson said. "We're trying to paint a vivid picture of a city transforming itself from a Rust Belt city for a green city. "We are relentlessly dedicated to innovation and creativity...there is a global climate threat facing us, and Hamilton wants to be the local solution to that global problem."

Lawson said that progress is already being made toward these green policies.

"Some cities have slow, antiquated views of implementing clean energy...they want to be at 25 percent clean energy by 2025," Lawson said. "But that's not enough. Most of these projects are [already] moving forward in cross-divisional teams."

Along with the obvious benefits of renewable energy on the earth's climate, Hamilton's use of green energy will have an impact on the business climate as well, according to Jody Gunderson, economic development director for the City of Hamilton.

"[Green energy policies] translate into businesses taking a look at Hamilton for that impact alone," Gunderson said.

Gunderson also said the green polices will be cost-effective.

"Hamilton is distinctive because they can provide that energy at market rates that are very competitive, sometimes lower than the general market," Gunderson said.

Other cities and areas surrounding Hamilton will be able to benefit from the economic boost as well.

Alan Kyger, economic development director for the City of Oxford, said Oxford does not have any plans to 'go green' any time in the near future.

"We don't have anything like that at this time," Kyger said.

Sophomore John O'Brien said Oxford might benefit from implementing some green policies as well.

"Oxford could wait and see what happens with Hamilton, and if the process works, they could try and do the same thing," O'Brien said.

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