US cities move to adopt 100% renewable energy

More US cities are making environmental and political commitments to be powered 100% by renewable energy led by heavily populated San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose in California, according to a new Sierra Club report that highlights 10 of them.

At least 16 cities have made that commitment and various others are weighing the move toward fully embracing carbon- and pollution-free energy.

Four of them are already obtaining 100% electricity from renewable sources: Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Columbia, Maryland, and Greensburg, Kansas.

According to the report, reasons that cities are adopting clean energy include:

  • It keeps money in local government coffers. Solar prices have declined 80% in recent years and wind by 60%. Renewables also use far less water than fossil fuels – critical in states such as California and Texas hit by drought.
  • Local job creation. Job growth in the solar industry alone was 12 times greater than in the general economy.
  • Savings for consumers. Sierra Club cites a Stanford University study that concludes that the transition to a clean energy economy would save the average American family more than $200 per year in energy costs and $1,500 per year in healthcare costs.
  • Less pollution. Air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked to asthma, neurological damage, heart attacks and cancer. Premature mortality is also said to be lower.

The report shows there is no single way to purse the 100% renewables target, with each city adopting difference approaches to take advantage of opportunities and meet challenges.

This partly depends on location with Aspen, for example, utilizing mainly hydropower and wind, while Burlington has a mix of biomass, hydro, solar and wind.

Other cities that have not made a full commitment to renewables are moving to acquire more as shown by Houston, which last November announced it will be purchasing 30MW of solar power from Hecate Energy through its retail electric provider, Reliant Energy.