US Local Governments Lead the Way in the Clean Energy Transition
New data from cityrenewables.org shows renewable energy deals signed by US local governments rising dramatically, totaling nearly 8.3 gigawatts of new capacity announced since 2015.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 24, 2020) — As of March 2020, local governments signed 335 deals to procure a total of 8.28 gigawatts of renewable energy over the last five years—more than the total energy generation capacity of Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont combined. This data was compiled by the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker, a new resource launched by the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator that documents renewable energy deals executed by US city, county, and tribal governments.
“Cities are a great catalyst for advancing renewable energy because people pay more attention to what’s happening in their own communities,” said Christine Knapp, sustainability director for the City of Philadelphia. “Our deal with a developer to provide 22 percent of the city’s electricity from a 70 megawatt solar facility generated so much interest from local institutions on how they could follow suit that we formed the Climate Collaborative of Greater Philadelphia to share knowledge among all these groups. Now, members of the Collaborative are announcing their own clean energy deals.”
Some of the largest deals from the last five years include a 50 megawatt solar deal by the small city of Sanford, Maine, and a 100 megawatt deal signed by Cincinnati, one of the biggest municipal solar projects in the country, that helps the city meet its goal to reduce citywide carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.
“Shifting to renewables makes perfect sense for Cincinnati. We can build this array locally, it’s cost-effective, and it lowers climate impacts,” said John Cranley, mayor of Cincinnati. “Our 2019 solar deal will power 25 percent of our municipal operations and 15 percent of our residential energy use by 2021. The cost savings and benefits this will deliver to our city has caught the interest of cities around the country. We keep getting calls on how they can follow suit.”
More cities and counties are setting climate and clean energy goals while the cost of renewable energy continues to decrease, in many cases making renewables a cheaper option than fossil fuels. For many cities, a clean energy transition also means the creation of jobs, economic development, and public health improvements like cleaner air.
“In the past five years alone, the renewable energy purchases made by local governments are equivalent to nearly 1 percent of the total installed energy generation capacity in the United States,” said Lori Bird, US energy director at World Resources Institute. “Local communities are using their buying power and collective voice to accelerate the transition to renewables—a trend that is quickly spreading in communities across the country.”
The Local Government Renewables Action Tracker was created by the Renewables Accelerator, an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge, to show and support the growing shift by local governments toward clean energy. By documenting the actions that local governments can take to advance renewables and showing the collective impact these actions can have, more cities and counties should feel empowered to do the same.
The Tracker consists of two components: a transaction map that shows renewable energy deals that US local governments have executed since 2015 and an engagement map, which highlights examples of efforts by local governments to advance their renewable energy goals by working with local utilities, regulators, and legislators.
“As local governments become more ambitious on climate action, we see them increasingly use the power of their voices,” said Rushad Nanavatty, senior principal at Rocky Mountain Institute. “By directly engaging with energy regulators and utilities—including through active interventions in integrated resource planning processes—local governments are changing the energy landscape far beyond their municipal boundaries.”
The Renewables Action Tracker is a living resource that will continue to be updated as more renewable energy deals are signed and local governments take action to advance their renewable energy options.
For more information on the Renewables Accelerator and the Renewables Action Tracker, visit https://cityrenewables.org.
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About the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator
The Renewables Accelerator is part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge, an initiative that aims to go beyond the theoretical and scale up high-impact urban climate solutions that are already proven to succeed. The Renewables Accelerator provides tools, resources, and technical assistance to help US cities advance ambitious renewable energy goals. Jointly led by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and World Resources Institute (WRI), the partnership supports local governments in the American Cities Climate Challenge, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and more as they strive to decarbonize the electricity sector.
About Rocky Mountain Institute
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.
More information on RMI can be found at www.rmi.org or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.
About World Resources Institute
World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with offices in Africa, Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States. Its more than 1,000 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. WRI’s Energy Program has in-depth expertise engaging with utilities to shape renewable energy offerings that meet the needs of buyers.
More information on RMI can be found at www.wri.org/ or follow us on Twitter @WorldResources.