Realistic Energy Transition Strategy for a small Coal Town in America

This material below was developed by Glory Oguegbu as part of the requirement for the completion of the course – Meeting the Climate Challenge at All levels of Government at the Columbia University School of Professional and Public Affairs. Names are fictional. In this write up, she speaks as the mayor of a small coal town affected by climate change in America whose residents are clamouring for the closure of the coal plant and recommends a strategic energy transition plan that benefits the people and the planet.

Achieving a Climate Smart Climateville; The Sustainable Path Forward

Speech by Hon. Anita Kyoto; Mayor of Climateville, USA

Midterm Paper: Meeting the Climate Challenge at All Levels of Government
By Glory Oguegbu

My fellow residents, I am happy to reconnect with you and welcome you back in our beautiful city after the school holiday and long August vacation. Something has recently come to my attention, something to do with our city – Climateville. Before I delve into that, I want to share a little bit of history with you. I was born and bred here. I grew up with my grandparents who were fishermen. My father did the catching of fish, the whole river side of things, whilst my mother prepared it for the market. As you know, Climateville is blessed to have the ocean nearby, it was the main driver of the economy in my childhood days and has aided the export of our fish which improved our economy greatly.

After a couple of years, Climateville began to receive lots of demand for our fish and it became necessary for a more reliable electricity system which will power the processing of our fish business way beyond just fish but fish oil, sardines and everything in the value chain. Our coal power plant was established just then to help with additional electricity demand from the fish processing industries and its arrival made the work easier. We were able to export products to fifteen countries compared to two as before. Revenues greatly improved. More people moved into our town for work. Real estate grew as well and the extra money led to a boost in our education sector with more schools being established.

In addition to that, more jobs were provided for our people who first go through a skill development opportunity, and then direct recruitment afterwards. Michael here who is leading the media team at our district, his grand aunty chaired the women agricultural team back then ensuring that many women in her days benefited from the fish boom. All of these were made possible because we had healthy waters which favoured our activities. Decades later, my parents were able to fund my university degree from the money they made selling fish. I was educated in Australia and after my five-year initial stay I noticed something when I came back home. Our local beach seemed to have approached a bit closer to the town. After speaking with the tour guides – efforts were made to block the advancement of water, but it seems to come closer year by year. This prompted me to check on our local fish industry, I was shocked to find out that they no longer caught any fishes in the ocean. “it seemed the fishes has moved to a different location’’ Mama Rosa had told me. This was many years ago.

My fellow citizens, this brings me to the reason why I am writing you today. My attention was drawn to a recent campaign by the Ecoplay youth organization who marched to our offices some weeks ago. They brought to the fore the vulnerabilities of our town to climate change

especially because of its unique positioning near the ocean. And they demanded for the closure of the City’s Coal Power Plant – the only electricity generation company in Climateville.

I acknowledge the vulnerabilities of our city to climate change impacts. My personal experiences, as I have shared above speak to it. But it’s not just Climateville’s fight alone, it’s a global push back against the terror unleashed by climate change impacts. Single handedly, Climateville is not contributing to the global climate change. We emit less than 0.005 percent of carbon dioxide. But due to our unique position near the sea, our major climatic impact driver is the sea level rise which will affect all cities and communities near the coast through flooding including us. Even though our actions do not cause climate change, we can be heavily impacted by it. This situation reminds me of the quote; ‘The very things that have kept you afloat can also drown you; – by an unknown scholar and in this case a direct reference to the sea which has powered our fishing industry for years and decades later might drown us all up due to climate change.

The Ecoplay youth organization has asked that we shut down our coal power plant, citing reasons such as the climate challenge and reduced electricity demand. My fellows Climateville residents, as someone who grew up seeing the world before climate change, I must tell you that this situation requires a great deal of wisdom, consideration and tact to be dealt with.
Let me offer an important perspective. Our young activists who led this campaign have assumed that the climate challenges faced by Climateville was directly caused by our local coal power plant. That is why they have asked that it be shut down. They’ve innocently presumed that shutting it off will inadvertently remove the climate challenges faced by Climateville or future impacts that might affect us.

Let me mention that human induced climate change is a direct result of emissions from major countries around the world. It’s a collective problem that man has created as a group resulting from activities from energy especially for power and transportation. Our coal power plant is not single handedly causing our sea level to rise. Fighting the climate menace requires collective effort from all countries even from cities like Climateville who feel we aren’t contributing a lot to C02 emissions but who will unavoidably face its impacts. That’s why I was very happy after participating few months ago at the UN COP 27 in Egypt and heard the resolves from countries to significantly reduce their actions prompting C02 increase. The UN Director General also urged the top ten biggest polluters to come up with strategic plan for their transition by the next year’s event. Again, we can win this war when efforts are galvanized across many nations.

The second reason cited by the Ecoplay youth organization on why the coal power plant should be shut down is that there has been reduced demand in electricity, Indeed, I would agree that

the demand for electricity has reduced since our vibrant fish industry packed up twelve years ago. But may I point out that this power plant is also providing the electricity that you use? In your homes, at your places of work and in your schools? To be candid, the electricity produced by the plant is the same one that powered the design and print out of the placards that you used for the campaign. I am just highlighting that to say that – the electricity service made possible by the coal power plant provides an all rounded service. If the plant were to be shut down, even you would be without access to basic electricity. Will that be the kind of Climateville we would want? A Climateville in darkness?

Years ago when our brother, Jim from the Harold-Ziga family started the coal fired power plant, his reason was to simply provide access to electricity and empower his own people, our people, to make processes seamless for them and increase their revenue through the establishment of a vibrant fish industry. And this the power plant did, before the government bought it over. Till date, this plant has remained the largest employment source in our city. Without the job security it provides, we would be in an immediate, an even more desperate position than climate impacts would put us in.

May I mention that the plant provides 60 percent of the Jobs in Climateville? The plant helps us maintain a robust primary and secondary education in this city. The tax from the plant has helped us employ 29% workers who serve as teachers within the school system. Without the plant functioning to give you electricity, 60 % employed engineers will lose their jobs. That is – your parents, uncles and your other relatives will be plunged into unemployment. Beyond that – about 15 % of our employed population working as teachers within the school system would be laid off as the tax from the plant would cease. That is your cousin and your best friends mum – would be without a job. Moreover, students on scholarship would also lose their places and will have to drop out of school. This includes your younger brothers and sisters. Extracurricular activities which we currently provide for our students will also have to be limited or stopped completely.

I wonder how this would affect our overall standard of education and the quality of graduates that this town would produce? Making a rushed decision about this situation would lead to more distress, poverty and reduced standard of living ultimately making us lose our revered position as the top 10 best city to live and work in within America. We will be deprived of our good ratings and consequently, lose revenues from tourism, making our economy spiral further downwards.

We must think about our personal lives, ambitions and how this affects us first as a people, then as a city and consider seriously how we want to move forward from here.

I must also not fail to recognize an underlying factor in this issue. In all sincerity and with every sense of diligence, I must mention to you that we still import coal because we do not have reserves of it. We spend a lot of money to process this coal, on systems, on education and on the man power. Additionally, coal is a finite resource. I will not forget to mention the many issues of air pollution that we have had because of our coal power plant. 387 cases of air pollution related asthmatic attacks and 16 deaths was reported last year. Perhaps this is God calling. I must admit that despite the good breaks made possible by the coal plant, your campaign is a strong reminder to finally begin to consider sustainable ways of living. Maybe it’s a true sign to give serious thoughts to how we want to protect posterity beginning from now.

Having thoroughly considered this matter, my team and I have developed a comprehensive plan to address it via a win-win format. I am excited to notify you about the formulation of a 10 year Clean Energy Transition Plan. This plan centers on three focal areas for our immediate attention and investments:

  • Hydropower Development Strategy
  • Clean Energy Development and Implementation plan  Carbon Capture and Storage Initiatives

The goal is to develop these new projects in 10 years and at the end to have transitioned 70 percent of all energy needs on the developed sources.

The proposed strategies would include the following components:

1. Hydropower Development Strategy

Our city is blessed with an incredible hydropower resource with our unique location near the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond that, we are blessed with thirteen rivers and waterfalls. The mean annual flow rate of the Trella River at Omu Falls is 42,000 cubic meters per second (1,500,000 cu ft/s). Given this flow rate and the 96-metre fall, the Omu Falls alone has a potential to generate 39.6 megawatt (850,000 hp) of mechanical energy and nearly as much electrical energy. Our overall hydropower capacity has the potential to provide up to 2800 MW of electricity. Our overall electricity need is 5, 500 MW. With a robust hydropower system and our strategic plan we could produce half our energy needs in a few years. To begin:

  • We will conduct a more detailed assessment of our city’s hydroelectric resources and choose the most viable locations for our hydropower plant.

  • Work with the private sector to establish the GIPTEX Engineering Company to handle engineering and construction aspects of this transition.

  • In the first 2 years, the focus would be on developing small scale hydropower projects using our small rivers. Like the Omu falls in the first year.

  • Create an intergration plan to connect the electricity generated from the hydropower plant to the city’s electricity grid. This means a robust attention to our electricity transmissions and distribution systems.

    2. Clean Energy Development and Implementation Plan

    The sun is free and we experience high levels of peak sun during the summer period. Also, our daylight hours amount to a substantial quality of electrons which can power solar photovoltaics. It therefore makes sense to harness our solar potential.

  • We will conduct holistic mapping of our city’s renewable energy potential especially solar power.

  • Begin plans on the process of creating our solar farms. The goal is to generate 1300MW capacity from solar resources and another 700 from other clean sources (wind, bioenergy)

  • Acquisition of technical parts of the project through a partnership with an GIPTEX, then installation, testing of projects over a period of time.

  • We will create a financial plan for channeling 20% of money made from our coal plant quarterly to developing these renewable resources.

  • Creation of public programs to sensitize and engage people about new energy systems and promote local acceptance and adoption.

  • M&E to access the projects performance and impact over the 10 years period

  • We will establish a solar panel manufacturing factory in partnership with the science and technology institute to lead the research and development of photovoltaic systems (solar panels) to directly meet the needs of our city and nearby towns. This will reduce money spent on importing solar panels and create a learning opportunity for our youths. It will also create employment opportunities for men and women working at the coal power plant.

3. Carbon capture and Storage Initiative

The main goal for this third plan is to meet our net zero targets as part of our country’s nationally Determined contributions on climate adaptation. Importantly, the reason is to be accountable for our carbon emissions stemming from the activities of the coal fired power plant within the course of the 10 year transition period. Our activities under this plan is as follows:

  • R&D of efficient carbon capture technologies. We plan to work with Carbon Reform company based in Miami to develop the technologies tailored to the modalities and activities of our existing coal plant

  • Set up of storage facilities for longer term carbon storage while ensuring the safe storage of the sequestrated carbon

  • Taking steps to ensure compliance of captured carbon with environmental regulations and standards.

  • Create education programs for the Climateville community to raise awareness about the importance of carbon capture and storage, also to upskill young graduates with CCS skills and consequently ensuring a skilled workforce in the new energy economy.

    Funding Strategy

    Our initial funds for the stipulated projects will come from the 20% set aside monthly from the coal power plant revenue. We also have a plan to source for funds through a combination of grants and partnerships with private sector. The goal will be to foster alliances with the private investors and industry stakeholders. We will also consider leveraging green bonds created by our state and national government and carbon credits.

    Environmental Sustainability Framework for the Energy Transition Plan

  • We will establish a set of Key performance indicators which will play the role of measurable metrics for evaluating this projects performance over time.

  • Before the start of any of the proposed projects, we will work with the State Governments Environmental Impact Assessment agency to map out potential risk areas associated with the project development over its lifecycle, then create a plan to mitigate the identified issues.

  • We will then create a template for sustainability reporting to align with the UN sustainable reporting strategies. We will work with the renowned brans Pricewater House Cooper (PwC) to create this plan. It will contain the methodology for collecting, analyzing and reporting environmental information used in our projects.

    Education and Skills Development for a Sustainable Energy Transition

    We will establish the Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute (RETTI) to provide education on the skills required for this transition covering the engineering, economics and finance of four main types of clean technology – Hydro power, Solar Power, Onshore Wind, Bioenergy, then Carbon Capture and Storage. Plans for establishing this learning institute already begun after the successful execution of our Youth Alternative Energy Boot-camp that our science board spearheaded for the students enrolled at the Department of Engineering, at the Climateville University of Science and Technology. The feedback from the stakeholders let us know it was a timely opportunity to further establish an education arm to specifically prepare young entrepreneurs and graduates of engineering, mathematics and other degrees with the skills required for this transition.

    Additionally, the men and women who will lose their jobs as the coal powered plant prepares to begin closure of operations in ten years’ time would also be put under a 2 year Renewable Energy Training Program to equip them with the skills suitable for our new energy system. The plan is to directly absolve them into the renewable energy programs and have them working to spearhead the successful administration of our processes and project execution.

    Staying Ten Steps Ahead

    These plans above present us with a timely opportunity to not only lead a life-changing shift towards sustainable energy for our city but enables us to emerge as a trendsetter within our state in the clean energy generation and manufacturing sector. By going this route, we will pioneer a model that can serve as an example for other cities in our state and beyond wishing to transition to sustainable energy. As we invest in these sustainable technologies and infrastructure, we are not only combating climate change, we are also laying a foundation for a strong clean energy sector that will drive our economic growth generations to come.

Through these efforts of ours, we have a unique opportunity to position our town as a regional hub for renewable energy manufacturing, R&D and skilled talent pool which positions us to attract global and national climate investments. This distinctive positioning, in addition to strengthening our towns climate and economic resilience, it will also consolidate our repute as a lead visionary and an exemplary city in climate conscious decisions.


In conclusion, the above projects signify our city’s intentional and strategic commitment to a greener future. The projected benefits are numerous and life changing. They have been designed to combat climate change and also unlock economic development additionally aligning us to global climate initiatives.

Collaboration is key to ensuring the success of these projects. We must work together to promote a clear partnership and communication plan, ensuring transparency along linkages between government agencies, local communities and key stakeholders in order to achieve an easy and smooth transition process. In the case of potential hurdles along the way or risks, we shall establish a comprehensive plan to manage prospective problems that may arise during implementation. That way we can guarantee an efficient process.

I implore all the residents and supporters of Climateville to join hands with the government and its stakeholders on this important journey to secure a green future for our town. I ask you to support us by accepting wholeheartedly this 10 years’ energy transition plan. We have provided an answer to your yearn to diversify our energy dependence from coal to renewables in order to create a climate resilient town. Now we ask for your undivided commitment in working together to ensure success of this strategy because you are an integral part of it and together we will bequest environmental guardianship and economic prosperity to our people now and in generations to come.

Thank you.

With my best regards,

Honourable Anita Kyoto

Mayor of Climateville, USA


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