Mayors group launches bid to expand clean energy initiative

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, April 28, 2017

A group of U.S. mayors announced a recruiting push for their campaign to promote renewable energy in cities.

The Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative is led by officials who have been partnering with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100movement.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who earlier this month released detailed plans on how the city would reach the goal of drawing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2032, said her community “can’t ignore climate change, because climate change is not ignoring us.”

A joint resolution proposed by Biskupski and adopted by the City Council in November calls carbon dioxide a major driver of climate change and commits to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, compared to a 2009 baseline.

“Among many other risks, we face water shortages, decreased snowpack and threats to our $1 billion ski industry,” Biskupski said. “Cities must adapt to cope with these threats, and that’s also why we must take action to mitigate them.”

Miami Beach, Fla., Mayor Philip Levine; San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; and Columbia, S.C., Mayor Stephen Benjamin, who is also vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, will co-chair the effort with Biskupski. They aim to recruit and engage other mayors ahead of the conference’s annual meeting in June, which takes place in Miami Beach.

“Our vibrant, historic city will be a model for other communities around the world on the importance of addressing the threat of climate change,” Levine said. “We have already taken steps to expand renewable energy, and we will continue to improve our infrastructure and innovate clean energy solutions for a stronger Miami Beach.”

Cities of all sizes are making the switch. Last week, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., agreed to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2032, bringing the total number of cities to 26. Other big cities — including Los Angeles and Denver — are considering their own pathways to transition.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plan to introduce legislation tomorrow to move the U.S. power mix to 100 percent renewable sources by midcentury at a press conference linked to Saturday’s Peoples Climate March (E&E Daily, April 25).

Renewables currently make up around 14 percent of the U.S. electricity mix. The U.S. Energy Information Administration noted in its 2017 outlook that U.S. power production is growing more diverse as coal loses market share and alternatives like wind, solar and biomass fill the void. More than half the electricity generation capacity added to the grid in 2016 came from renewable resources, according to EIA, which forecast it will be the world’s fastest-growing energy source through 2040.

Mayors are pitching clean energy as a solution to climate change and an opportunity to create jobs and new business opportunities.

San Diego has become the nation’s top-ranking city in solar energy capacity since it brought business and environmental groups together to advance a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, Faulconer said today.

“Cities are on the front lines of the fight against climate change, and we are leading the way toward solutions to our greatest environmental challenges,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, chairman of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

Garcetti has been an outspoken critic of White House’s energy agenda. He led a letter to President Trump late last month objecting to the executive order targeting Obama-era environmental regulations.

Mayors of other Golden State cities, including San Jose, Oakland, Palo Alto, Santa Monica and West Sacramento; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; and Portland, Ore., Mayor Ted Wheeler also signed the letter. Many of those mayors have also warned Trump against exiting the Paris Agreement (Climatewire, Nov. 23, 2016).

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune applauded the mayors who have already endorsed the 100 percent clean energy goal and said the group is looking forward to working with others.

“Cities don’t need to wait for Washington, D.C., to act in order to move the ball forward on clean energy,” Brune said.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed confidence earlier this week that the U.S. would meet the Obama administration’s Paris pledge to cut U.S. emissions between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025 “without any help from the federal government.”

Bloomberg, who serves as the U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change, made the bullish claim in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” during the promotional tour for his book “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses and Citizens Can Save the Planet.” He co-authored the book with former Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope.

“The truth of the matter is, America is going to meet its COP21 goals without any help from the federal government, and we’re the only industrial country in the world that’s going to be able to do that,” Bloomberg said yesterday.