Getting to 100% in Cities

by John Farrell, ILSR, 2018. Updated presentation.


Go for 100%: Over 70 U.S. cities have set goals to get all of their electricity from renewable sources within 15-20 years, offering lower costs and more local energy production. Listen to podcasts with the pioneers––

Commit to developing local renewable energy: In Taos, N.M., and Minneapolis, Minn., city officials have set goals to capture the economic benefits of local renewable energy resources. Read the resolution from Taos––

Municipal Actions

Transform city lighting: 35 Pennsylvania towns went in together to bulk purchase LED street lighting and will save $1.4 million per year. Read the news about big savings––

Blanket city buildings with solar power: Dozens of cities––including Kansas City, Mo.; Raleigh, N.C.; and New Bedford, Mass.––have cut energy costs by investing big in solar on public buildings. Preview the report and podcasts––

Switch city vehicle fleets to electricity: Houston, Tex., saved over $100,000 per year by switching 27 fleet vehicles to all-electric Nissan LEAFs. Read the case study––

Fund local energy investment with utility franchise fees: Minneapolis, Minn., raised fees on electricity and gas bills by 0.5% to create a fund supporting clean energy deployment and access for city residents and businesses. Read the news release––

See stories of implementation and an interactive way to browse local energy policies with ILSR’s Community Power Toolkit

Rules to Simplify Zoning and Permitting

Minimize zoning and permitting costs for renewable energy systems: Hundreds of U.S. cities have lowered rooftop solar costs by 20% with streamlined permitting. Lancaster, Calif., offers a model ordinance. Get the ordinance language––

Rules to Lower Housing Costs

Require solar on all new buildings: Several cities (and the state of California) lower solar costs by one-third by requiring new residential properties to incorporate it during construction. Get the ordinance language––

Require energy use disclosure on sale or rental of property: allowing prospective buyers or renters to see energy use data motivates property owners to lower energy costs. See who’s adopted it and ordinance language––

Require licensed rental properties to meet minimum energy standards: Boulder, Colo., set minimum standards for all rental properties to ensure renters will have affordable energy bills. See the SmartRegs FAQ––

Rules to Improve Buildings

Adopt the most aggressive building energy code allowed: In several states, cities may set their own energy codes or adopt a “stretch” code, saving property owners millions of dollars on energy bills. See what cities can do, and what they’ve done––

Advice from Connecticut

On a town level: (Clean Energy Communities)

Signed clean energy pledge

Established energy task force

Earned and redeemed Bright Idea Grants

Completed outreach campaign

Achieved 20% residential Energy Efficiency participation

Achieved 15% commercial EE participation

Bechnmarked data from municipal buildings

Completed Municipal Action Plan

Reduced 10% of Municipal Energy Use

Reduced 20% of Municipal Energy Use

Explanatory variables include the availability of policy champions (you!) and then town officials and staff, availability of energy specialist/sustainability coordinator, and Availability and Organizational Capacity of Clean Energy Taskforces (CETF)

Policy champions/entrepreneurs are “people who are willing to invest their resources in pushing their pet proposals or problems, are responsible not only for prompting important people to pay attention but also for coupling solutions to problems and for coupling both problems and solutions to politics” (Kingdon 1984,p.21)

Policy champions matter for clean energy engagement, often have similar characteristics: proactive, resourceful, connected

And similar strategies:  framing clean energy as an economic development issue and highlighting the economic benefits of engaging clean energy proactively building on previous successes Almost all leading towns have at least one government official advocating for clean energy initiatives; when a government official is a champion for clean energy, the likelihood of a new policy adoption is high.  In all the leading towns, there are volunteer policy champions whereas in silver and bronze communities they rarely exist and town staff, in some cases, singlehandedly shoulder