provided to The Santiva Chronicle
The Sanibel & Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation will co-host “Powering Our Green Energy Future – A Community Conversation.” The free, hybrid event will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 9 at The Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way and also will be accessible remotely via Zoom.
“The event aims to address our community’s economic resilience by readying — through green measures today — for the future impacts of climate change,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer. As one of the presenters at the event and a Visit Florida board member, he will speak about Why Florida Businesses Are Focused on Climate Change Resiliency. “Investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy today can provide economic benefits to municipalities, the tourism industry as a whole, island businesses, and homeowners to help Florida and its communities better adapt in the future.”
Other event panelists include Dr. Carrie Schuman, SCCF coastal resilience manager, who speaks regularly about coastal resilience in the community. “Part of my messaging often focuses on the fact that preparing for climate change requires both adaptation and mitigation to preserve our island way of life,” she says. “Adaptation means choosing balanced strategies including incorporating nature to prepare for effects like sea-level rise, storms, and flooding. Mitigation of greenhouse gases focuses on addressing the causes of climate change to reduce the severity of its future impact and to increase our ability to successfully adapt.”
Schuman’s presentation will focus on A Climate Change Primer: What Coastal Communities Can Expect and Why Greenhouse Gas Reduction is Critical.
SCCF CEO James Evans will moderate the program, which also includes panelists Dr. Simeone Komisar, director of the environmental engineering program at FGCU, and Bob Moore, who co-chairs with Evans the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group, a consortium of citizens and local experts that has been meeting over the past year to develop recommendations for the Sanibel and Captiva communities.
Moore will present the working group’s initial recommendations. Komisar will address Opportunities for Cost Savings Through Effective Energy Use and Renewables.
“The cost of renewables has plummeted in the last decade, and energy efficiency has improved considerably,” said Komisar. “It makes good economic sense, not to mention the environmental benefit for cities, businesses, and homeowners to take advantage of these savings.”
“The working group has representatives from a variety of local organizations, including SCCF and the chamber of commerce,” said Evans. “The goal of this community forum is to involve business owners, homeowners, and city representatives in an open conversation about the opportunities that a greater reliance on green energy can provide.
“Our community’s core value of living sustainably with our natural environment has supported a positive quality of life and a vibrant economy. Looking to the future, there are a number of challenges we face to preserve the Sanibel-Captiva community as we know it. Among them are the increasing impacts of climate change. It only makes sense for Sanibel and Captiva to step up as leaders for the region on these issues.”
LCEC will be on hand with information about its energy audit service to help identify potential energy and cost savings for homes and businesses and also its net metering program, which allows rooftop solar systems to connect to the electrical grid.
Sanibel Vice Mayor Richard Johnson acts as city council liaison to the working group and co-owns Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel Island. “I’ve been a long-term advocate for energy efficiency and renewable energy,” he said, adding that he has seen direct benefits at Bailey’s, where he has taken a number of steps to reduce the store’s carbon footprint including the installation of 480 rooftop solar panels. “The result? Today our monthly electric bill is one-third of what it was in the past,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen a return on our investment in just under five years.”
Johnson also commented on how fortunate the city of Sanibel is to have as its new city manager Dana Souza, who has experience in previous city appointments working on climate change resiliency plans.
“The Renewable Energy Working Group has brought great leadership to this important issue,” said Souza. “There are renewable energy options that may be prudent investments for residential and business property owners on Sanibel and Captiva. I’m looking forward to this event and hearing more from the panel and to give community members another opportunity to share their concerns and priorities.”
Both in-person and Zoom attendees will have the opportunity for public comment and questions. The event is free and open to the public, but to assure adequate space and resources, those planning to attend – whether in-person or online – must register for the event at sancapgreenfuture.eventbrite.com. For more information on the event, contact the chamber at 239-472-8255 or Landen@sanibel-captiva.org; or SCCF at email@example.com.