The 100% Clean Energy Revolution is Here–with Big Solar Opportunities

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Not only do solar and other renewable energy sources enjoy broad support among individual Americans (9 out of 10 support solar according to SEIA!), local governments have also been demonstrating increasing clean energy commitment. In fact, this month, Cincinnati, Ohio became the 100th U.S. city to set a target of sourcing 100% renewable energy!

The Sierra Club, whose Ready for 100 campaign supports communities in committing to 100% renewable energy, estimates that 15% of the U.S. population now lives in a city with a 100% clean energy target. An additional 11 counties  and 4 states–Hawaii, California, New Jersey, and, most recently, New York–have made comparable commitments. The city council of Washington, D.C. has also committed to 100% renewable energy, pending approval by the mayor and Congress.

Add to that the numerous other state actions in favor of clean energy this year and the over 400 mayors representing 70 million people that have expressed support for the Paris climate agreement, and it’s clear that support for solar and other clean energy is reaching unprecedented levels.  

The importance of these commitments can hardly be overstated, particularly in light of the recent report by 13 federal agencies which identified drastic climate change impacts for the U.S., including significant contraction of the country’s economy. Fortunately, investment in renewable energy can significantly reduce carbon emissions while driving economic benefits and job growth. Not to mention it can create significant business opportunities for the solar industry!

In today’s blog post we explore what local commitments to 100% renewable energy mean for solar–particularly how solar contractors can get involved in the clean energy transitions of their local communities.

Which cities and towns have committed to 100% renewable energy?

Cities all across the country have made commitments to 100% renewable energy, including Atlanta, Boulder, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis, Cleveland, and many, many more. For the full list, and contact information for city representatives, see the Sierra Club’s list of 100% Renewable Energy Commitments.

Metadata: Cities that have committed to sourcing 100% clean energy, courtesy of Sierra Clubs Ready for 100 campaign for 100% renewable energy.Cities that have committed to 100% renewable energy (white dots) and cities already powered by 100% renewable energy (blue dots). Not pictured is Kodiak Island, Alaska (powered by 100% renewable energy). Source: Sierra Club Ready for 100.

What is involved in a city’s commitment to 100% renewable energy?

You might be wondering what it really means when a city commits to 100% renewable energy. Does the commitment only apply to electricity use by the local government, or does it apply to all residents and local businesses? While the specific commitments vary by city, many of these local commitments cover the electricity consumption of the entire community.

As the Sierra Club explains, its ‘Ready for 100’ campaign recognizes community commitments… where a city’s leadership has established a goal to transition to the entire community to 100% clean, renewable energy. This can be through a stand-alone Resolution or Proclamation, or integrated into a community’s Climate Action Plan or Energy Action Plan.”

In the case of Cincinnati, the city has committed to sourcing 100% of electricity for residents and small businesses from renewable energy by 2035. The first stage of that commitment will involve 25 megawatts of solar development, and the city is exploring potential project sites.

For communities interested in similar commitments, the Sierra Club offers policy guidelines, including recommendations that local clean energy mandates consider justice, equity, affordability, and access to clean energy, and that they follow a transparent and inclusive planning process.

What do local commitments to 100% renewable energy mean for solar companies?

As you might expect, these local commitments can open up a lot of business opportunity for solar companies to help meet the community energy needs with solar. Like Cincinnati, many of these cities are actively working to encourage the development of local solar projects or directly soliciting bids from solar companies.

Utility Dive reports that a partnership of 20 cities–including Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Portland, and Orlando–have teamed up to jointly issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for collectively purchasing a total of 5700 GWh renewable energy!

Similarly, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle have jointly issued a Request for Information (RFI) for electric vehicle charging infrastructure development valued at more than $10 billion.

Other examples of cities incorporating solar development into their 100% renewable energy commitments include:

  • Concord, New Hampshire–planning a large solar plant on a closed landfill and changing local zoning to better accommodate local solar projects
  • Denton, Texas–approved a contract for a 100 MW solar project
  • Denver, Colorado–in addition to a community solar program, Denver is requiring all new construction to be net zero by 2035, a move which may encourage more solar on new construction
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas–exploring solar projects on its municipal buildings
  • Orlando, Florida–in addition to other pro-solar initiatives, Orlando’s Collective Solar cooperative helps residents take advantage of economies of scale when purchasing solar

While the specific plans for achieving 100% renewable energy vary by city, if there are cities in your area with such commitments it’s worth taking a close look at their procurement plans. In particular, check to see if they include RFPs or other opportunities for your solar company to participate in local solar development. For those interested in learning more, the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 list includes contact information for local representatives who can provide more information on particular programs.

Even if your local area doesn’t have a 100% clean energy commitment, take a look at what other clean energy initiatives they have. Many cities and towns without such ambitious targets still have powerful incentives for advancing local clean energy. For example, Watertown, Massachusetts recently passed a measure requiring solar installations on all new commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet.

If your locality doesn’t have clean energy policies, consider talking with your local representatives about how clean energy can benefit your community. After all, as a solar contractor, you know the ins-and-outs of solar project development and can be a valuable source of information for your elected leaders. Around the country, local communities are leading the way on the clean energy transition–which is good news for the environment, the economy, and the solar industry!