U.S. cities are setting out to procure an additional 2.8 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2021, as part of a wider, US$70-million initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies to promote municipal climate action.
“The context of this really is, in many ways, [the Trump] administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” said Rushad Nanavatty, a former staffer with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center (BRC) who will lead the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator. “There was essentially an abdication of responsibility at the federal level, and following that, you had a whole host of subnational actors stepping in and filling the breech.”
Greentech Media lists the multiple municipal and other subnational renewables initiatives that launched in response to Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris deal—including the BRC, which set out to enable 60 GW of corporate renewable energy purchases by 2030. And it’s working. “In 2017 and 2018, corporations set annual records for the renewables capacity they procured, with over 6.5 gigawatts in 2018,” Greentech notes, citing U.S. data from the BRC.
“Corporate renewables were so significant last year that they accounted for nearly a quarter of all U.S. solar deals, according to research from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables,” the industry newsletter adds. The BRC has now joined the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, which also draws support from groups like the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund.
With more than 100 U.S. cities now committed to 100% renewable or clean energy targets, Nanavatty says the Accelerator’s goal is to help them get there.
“Cities are in a pretty analogous situation to the situation corporates were in a few years ago, in that they have made a number of really, really ambitious, and in some ways, pretty radical, commitments and are now looking for ways to turn those commitments into action,” he said. “Our specific mandate is to essentially help cities decarbonize their electricity systems, primarily through the procurement of renewable energy.”
Citing Nanavatty, Greentech points to some of the unique challenges cities face in contrast to corporate renewable energy buyers. “Many municipalities don’t have retail choice, meaning they can’t pick their electricity provider or source of generation and instead must work closely with their utility to work out a plan,” the publication notes. “Other locations may not have regulations in place for programs like community solar. And cities are generally up against finite resources in terms of staffing and money.”
The organization hosted a workshop in Washington, DC last week on large-scale procurement, and is planning a boot camp on local procurement options later this month.