San Diego is the largest US city to join the growing trend of cities opting for clean energy thus far. The city has committed to 100% renewables by 2035.
The city is joins a growing list of US cities (at least 13) that have committed to 100% renewables. Over 350 US state and local elected officials from nearly every state signed a letter during the Paris climate conference calling for 50% clean energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2050. [COP 21 Climate Agreement Sets Scene For Energy Sector].
The most ambitious standard set by a US state thus far is Hawaii [Hawaii Looks To 100% Renewables] which has pledged to go 100% by 2045. Several other islands, including Aruba, Belize, St. Lucia, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and San Andres and Providencia have pledged to go 100% as well through the Ten Island Challenge, created by Richard Branson’s climate group the Carbon War Room. [Turks & Caicos Joins Ten Island Challenge]
The numbers speak volumes
Other than reducing the effects of climate change, leaders are also aware that renewables development will bring about employment and economic growth. [Renewable Energy Tipping Point – Time for System Change and Obama’s Clean Power Plan - An Economically Sound Blueprint to Transition the US Toward a Low-Carbon Future]
The case for renewables is getting stronger and the numbers support this. Solar prices have dropped by 80% in recent years and the solar industry for instance is now employing nearly twice as many people as the coal mining industry in the US.
The transition to renewables is also good for the wallet. According to Stanford scientists, a move to 100% renewable energy could save the average American family US$260 each year in energy costs and another US$1,500 per year in healthcare costs.
The global move to 100%
Worldwide, other cities are also committing to 100%-these include Paris, Sydney and Vancouver. At the recent Climate Summit for Local Leaders, held in Paris to coincide with the international climate negotiations, 1,000 mayors signed a declaration to “commit collectively to support ambitious long-term climate goals such as a transition to 100% renewable energy.”
Several countries around the world have hit impressive benchmarks for renewables in just a few short years. And many places have already made the transition to fossil-fuel-free electricity. Samso in Denmark became the world’s first island to go 100% several years ago. Most recently, Uruguay, three US cities—Burlington, Vermont; and Greensburg, Kansas—along with Kodiak Island, Alaska, have all made the transition. Others that have joined include Yakushima, Japan; Hartberg, Austria; Greensburg, U.S.;Dobbiaco, Italy; Island of Bozcaada, Turkey; Kisielice,Poland;Wildpoldsried, Germany; Tokelau, territory of New Zealand; El Hierro, Canary Islands, territory of Spain; Saint-Julien-Montdenis, France; Mureck, Austria; Knežice, Czech Republic; Flecken Steyerberg, Germany; Pellworm, Germany; Aspen, Colorado; Kodiac Island, Alaska; and Costa Rica. [Data sourced from go100re.net’s map of the Global 100% RE Campaign.]
Technically feasible and economically viable
The International Energy Agency released a report in October that found a quarter of the world will be powered by renewables by 2020. And a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency found that the transition to a sustainable energy future by 2030 is “technically feasible and economically viable.”
A Greenpeace report, Greenpeace-Energy Revolution 2015, published recently shows how the world can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. Mark Jacobson, one of the researchers from Stanford, said the barriers to 100% clean energy are social and political, not technical or economic. [100% Renewable Energy - A Roadmap for 2050.]
Government support can certainly go a long way in supporting the development of renewables. For instance, New York’s Governor Andrew M. Cuomo laid out an ambitious energy agenda for the State, with the Public Service Commission (PSC) playing an important role in creating significant regulatory changes needed to ensure the agenda’s success. His “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) strategy is spurring clean energy innovation, bringing new investments into the State and improving consumer choice and affordability. In its role, the PSC is aligning markets and the regulatory landscape with the overarching state policy objectives of giving all customers new opportunities for energy savings, local power generation, and enhanced reliability to provide safe, clean, and affordable electric service. [Reforming New York's Energy Vision]
The REV initiative will lead to regulatory changes that promote more efficient use of energy, deeper penetration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, wider deployment of “distributed” energy resources, such as microgrids, rooftop solar and other on-site power supplies such as storage.[ New York A HotBed For Storage R&D].
Taking an integrated approach
While the feasibility of going 100% is being demonstrated increasingly at different scales, an integrated approach is still called for if society is aiming for a carbon free environment.
Targets on energy efficiency and flexibility should still be at the top of the list when setting ambitious energy goals. [Energy Efficiency And Renewables Have Synergies].
[2030 Living - how will people use energy?] Individuals and organisations across all sectors need to take initiatives to reduce their footprint. We still maintain that while clean energy should be at the top of the list, the most valuable energy is the energy saved.