Powering Eugene’s Future

Let’s build a new City Hall that takes on climate change

By Zach Klonoski

What if Eugene’s new City Hall not only served as the center for Eugene’s civic life and agenda for decades to come, but also powered essential government buildings and services, providing clean, renewable energy capable of being stored onsite while greatly bolstering community resilience in the face of ever-increasing disasters caused by climate change?

I propose that Eugene look to the future when making generational investments like constructing a new City Hall and think about how this critical project can best serve current and future community members.

Why not build a City Hall that generates massive amounts of clean renewable energy by optimizing it for solar, micro wind turbines and other forms of feasible renewable energy?

Why not incorporate a massive battery storage feature in the design — perhaps with Oregon’s own long-duration battery storage company ESS Inc. —  that could act as a clean power plant for essential city functions and the people of Eugene when disaster strikes (which it inevitably will as climate change makes once in a generation weather events commonplace)? 

The new City Hall would serve as a clean microgrid capable of powering Eugene through blackouts and brownouts — many of which are now preemptive during periods of treacherous summer heat and windstorms in an effort to limit the number of mega-wildfires that have become the new norm in Oregon and much of the Western U.S.

Why not include a large electric vehicle charging station that will allow the city to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles while also serving as a tourist attraction and boon for small businesses in the Market District for people driving EVs who would otherwise drive right past Eugene on the highway?

Why not construct a beautiful and sustainable building using locally sourced materials designed by a leading green building company, many of which are located in the Willamette Valley, and create hundreds of good paying jobs?

Like it or not, we’re living in the climate crisis right now, and things will only get more challenging in the years and decades to come. By thinking outside of the box, however — and making smart, strategic investments in critical infrastructure — we can help prepare this beautiful city and its community members for the future we all know is coming.

Let’s be bold. Let’s pass down a new City Hall that shows that our generation understood this critical moment in human history and made big, bold investments that will benefit this community for decades to come, serving as a model for other communities around the country.

Let’s build a new City Hall that will power Eugene into the future, both figuratively and literally. Let’s make it a living embodiment of what this community values and represents. A place we can point to and be proud of as we do our part to accelerate the transition from dirty, polluting fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.

I can think of few better opportunities in the near future for this community to show young people — and all future generations — that a better world is indeed possible. For the past few years, young people have literally been walking out of school and “striking for the climate,” demanding bold leadership and climate action. Well, here’s a chance to show them we’re listening.

Important disclaimer from the author: Nothing contained in this guest-viewpoint should delay the long overdue project of establishing a permanent City Hall in Eugene as soon as possible. For a community that prides itself on civic engagement, not having a permanent City Hall for going on a decade is simply unacceptable.

Zach Klonoski recently moved from Portland back to Eugene with his partner and their 3-year-old child, Quentin. He is a lawyer and dedicated climate and political activist.

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