Local Governments Choose Renewables for Powering Facilities, Expand to Residents3 min read
The United Nations has reported that cities consume almost 80 percent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, directly impacting the climate and the health of citizens.1 Therefore, every local government has a role to play in the important initiative focused on cleaner air and mitigating the effects of climate change. Whether it’s by decreasing energy consumption or switching to a cleaner form of fuel, many local governments are already leading the way in the sustainability movement.
Between 2015 and the first quarter of 2020, cities across the United States signed 335 renewable energy deals,2 and more than 178 cities spanning 32 states have developed 100% renewable energy goals, 3 such as the city of Chicago. Some of the reasons that cities may opt for renewable energy include:
- Complying with state-mandated orders or executive orders
- Potentially saving on energy costs
- Reducing air pollution including greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)
- Influencing new and local renewables projects
- Creating jobs and economic benefits
Renewable energy procurement does not always require the installation of onsite solar panels or wind turbines on business property as some may assume. It can be as simple as purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) or carbon offsets, which spur the creation of new clean energy projects or support existing renewable energy resources.
Spurring new and local renewables projects
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (COPA) agreed to purchase power and project-specific renewable energy certificates (RECs) from 191-megawatts of solar currently being developed on seven sites spanning six counties. This transaction allows COPA to source approximately 50 percent of its annual energy consumption from renewable supply. The purchase of the RECs made the development of the renewable energy project possible and is an option that allows buyers to claim they have purchased renewable energy. Once complete, COPA’s project will provide clean power to 16 of its agencies.
The project will help fulfill Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Climate Change Executive Order, which set a goal of lowering Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050 compared with 2005 levels as well as obtaining at least 40 percent of electricity from in-state clean energy sources.
Supporting renewable energy sources
New Castle County in Delaware has also made headway in its path to sustainability as it has also purchased RECs to match 100% of their electricity use at 18 locations through June 2024, including at its Public Works headquarters building, multiple pump stations and treatment plants, the Rockwood Museum, the Public Safety Building, the New Castle County Government Center and the Gilliam Building.4 The RECs are sourced from wind energy facilities located in the lower 48 states. This project is expected to save the county $77,440 annually during the contract’s term.
Community choice aggregation to expand to businesses and citizens
Cities may also want to expand the use of clean energy to residents and small businesses who may not have access to buy or have the knowledge of how to procure energy purchases, for further carbon emissions reduction. In Geneva, New York, for example, consumers have access to renewable energy at a fixed rate for two years through community choice aggregation.5 This tool gives governments an opportunity to save on energy costs by purchasing bulk amounts of electricity for eligible residential and small business constituents.
In 2019, the municipality endorsed an opt-in community solar pilot in support of renewable energy generation while delivering guaranteed savings to participants, and in 2021 took a step further by passing a resolution that would make solar available to energy consumers as the default energy option; this program and will launch late 2021.
Other options for reducing city or countywide carbon emissions
In addition to renewable energy, city officials are thinking of other ways to reduce GHG emissions. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, for example, has pushed for other sustainability-related upgrades, such as installation of public access electric vehicle charging stations, an electric vehicle pilot program, and the installation of a 350 square foot solar array on the rooftop of a library with solar-powered site lighting in the parking lot. 4
Local governments, whether state, city or county, have an opportunity to lead the way in the global sustainability movement by supporting renewable resources, driving the development of new renewable energy projects and making these energy sources available to businesses and citizens. Learn more about our renewable energy solutions by visiting www.constellation.com/renewables.
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