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Evaluating the Progress of Cities with 100% Renewable Energy Targets

October 03, 2018

In 2017, Multnomah County and the City of Portland committed to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050, aiming to meet community-wide electricity needs from renewable sources by 2035. According to the Sierra Club, more than 80 cities have made similar commitments, several of which have interim goals starting as early as 2020. While ambitious commitments such as these are vital to the energy transition, it will be increasingly important to ensure cities are fulfilling their renewable energy targets and tracking progress along the way. In mid-September, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, a coalition of local jurisdictions working toward ambitious climate goals, released a report, “What’s Driving Changes in Local GHG (greenhouse gas) Emissions?” The report includes a depth of data on Portland’s climate progress due to the city’s long-term use of ICLEI’s ClearPath emissions management software and its participation as a pilot community in ICLEI’s research. Though the report should be perused in its entirety, here are some takeaways we think are worth noting:
  • Within the commercial sector, gains in energy efficiency can reduce emissions even while the sector experiences growth;
  • The transportation sector is much more difficult to analyze due to a variety of external factors, as well as the regional impact of population growth (e.g., vehicle miles traveled may drop within city limits as population growth pushes drivers into suburbs and outlying cities);
  • State-level policies are vital to advancing local climate goals by encouraging energy efficiency, vehicle fuel efficiency, vehicle fuel switching, and increased integration of renewable energy onto the grid; and
  • In order to achieve climate goals, local jurisdictions will require additional support to establish adaptive processes that include regular data tracking, analyses of ongoing progress, and policy changes.

“Overall we find that when cities engage in climate mitigation in a serious way, tangible progress is attainable. Local action combined with action from states, national policy, and climate friendly market forces in energy supply produce even larger gains,” state the report’s authors. Read the full report on ICLEI’s website here.
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