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The Carbon-Free City Handbook: Electricity

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Electricity generation is a major contributor to global climate change, accounting for nearly one quarter of all emissions. But cost-effective renewable energy sources present an unprecedented opportunity for cities.

As cities reduce their energy consumption and switch from direct fossil-fuel consumption to electrification, the remaining challenge then becomes how to transform electricity generation to carbon-free renewable energy. Leading cities are doing so by first committing to bold 100 percent renewable energy targets, then implementing comprehensive action plans.

Action 13: LED Smart Streetlights

Description

Replace traditional lights (e.g., high-pressure sodium) with energy-efficient, smart LED luminaires and networked control (for real-time monitoring, on/off, dimming). Further use the streetlight network—both the physical poles and digital communications backbone—for additional sensors, cameras, and intelligent automation of city services.

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Action 14: Electric Districts

Description

Avoid and/or eliminate/replace fossil-fuel infrastructure (i.e., natural gas for heating, cooking, hot water) in favor of electric-only buildings and infrastructure, ranging from individual buildings to entire developments, neighborhoods, and districts.

Action Documents

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Additional Citations

We now begin with a heat revolution, where every Amsterdammer is involved. I’m proud that we are working hard together in Amsterdam to make existing neighborhoods natural gas-free. We’re just going to do it.

‐Abdeluheb Choho, Amsterdam Alderman and Head of Sustainability, City of Amsterdam (as quoted on nu.nl)

Action 15: Municipal Solar Installations

Description

Install solar photovoltaics (PV) on all available municipal sites, including building rooftops (e.g., city hall, schools, police/fire, community centers, transit depots), carports, and other structures, and ground mount solar PV on appropriate land (e.g., rights of way, infill, brownfields). Make available for community solar projects.

Action Documents

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Action 16: Municipal Renewable Supply

Description

Leverage various mechanisms (e.g., utility green tariff programs, direct supply, power purchase agreements [PPAs], city ownership of utility-scale renewable generation) to secure renewable energy supply—often from beyond the city’s borders—to meet all energy use not covered by on-site renewables.

Action Documents

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Browse Additional Recommendations by Sector

Buildings

Transitioning buildings toward net-zero energy makes buildings healthier and more comfortable, and smart approaches to retrofitting and new construction can create an economic boon for the city.

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Industry

Industry is a major employer and economic driver in many global cities, significantly shaping a city’s carbon emissions. Strategic partnerships with corporate residents can achieve economic and environmental solutions that benefit everyone.

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Biological Resources

Cities can shift the flow and management of their biological resources to reduce emissions, capture carbon, and provide numerous other benefits to a city.

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Financing

Cities have an important role to play creating or expanding financing options and improving access to such financing.

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City leaders and sustainability officers: take action today to put your city on a pathway to zero-carbon.