A trainer works with a student at a 2019 solar install in Washington, D.C. overseen by GRID Alternatives, a national nonprofit that makes renewable energy and job training accessible to underserved communities. Courtesy of GRID Alternatives
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On Tuesday, Tulsans will vote on a franchise agreement renewal between the City and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO). The agreement, which would last for 15 years if approved, would add a monthly 1% fee to a resident’s bills. The money raised from that fee would help fund maintenance of city streets, highways and more.

Over the course of 15 years, the fee will likely generate over $75 million for the city. It’s a figure Mayor Bynum says could make a “tremendous” difference for Tulsa.

But perhaps more importantly to some residents, the franchise provides a longer term opportunity for the city to play a more aggressive role in combatting climate change.

Gary Allison, a lead organizer with Tulsa Ready for 100, said that his group “would not oppose” PSO’s plan. Late last year, the group launched a grassroots effort to push the City of Tulsa to commit to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035. They called for this commitment before putting the franchise agreement to a vote of the people. While that effort was not entirely successful, Allison says he is hopeful about PSO’s future plans.

Future PSO plans could set Tulsa up for a green-energy future, if implemented

“When you look at PSO’s 2021 integrated resource plan, by the end of 2031, 90% of their electricity is coming from renewable resources,” Allison said.

While it isn’t the full commitment Allison and the Ready for 100 team worked for, it’s encouraging.

“PSO is well on its way to becoming a 100% clean renewable electricity provider,” Allison said in an interview with The Tulsa World. “I don’t know that there is any other utility anywhere near here that is that far down the line.”

This plan, however, is far from guaranteed. Not only must PSO first ensure its franchise is renewed, it must also overcome resistance at the state level.

“The state Attorney General has announced his opposition to [PSO’s long-term, clean energy plan],” Allison told The BWSTimes. He noted that large industrial lobbies were also pushing against the plan.

“We will need allies to support the [clean energy] plan” to ensure it can be implemented, Allison said.

Oklahoma has one of the highest per-capita rates of energy-related carbon emission in the country. Passing this franchise agreement and ensuring PSO’s long-term plan is carried out could put the state on a path toward a cleaner, greener future.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...