As the clean-energy community wraps its head around what a Trump administration means for its future in the United States, one thing is clear: The local action that fueled climate progress for the last few years will leap to the forefront. Absent federal leadership on climate and energy, it will be up to cities, states and the business community to carry the torch.
At the local level, cities are already advancing clean energy action. Globally, cities consume about two-thirds of the world’s energy, making them a prime target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. No doubt you’ve heard a lot already about what cities can do — but here’s a look at what they are actually putting it into practice.
Burlington, Vermont is the first city in the country to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity. The combination of hydropower, biomass, wind and solar that powers the city has real benefits to residents — they haven’t raised electricity costs in eight years. The city’s purchase of a hydropower plant in 2014 insulated it from the volatile fossil fuel market, and Moody’s raised the utility’s credit rating as a result.
Burlington wasn’t always the liberal, granola town people think of today — it was once a manufacturing center that also functioned as a logging port. Many of the policies and programs that have transformed the town come from the municipality itself, separate from federal or state guidance. Burlington’s work so far shows how small manufacturing towns can benefit from the clean-energy transition. Within ten years the city plans to be net zero, generating as much energy as it consumes.
Burlington isn’t the only city going green. Earlier this year, Vancouver announced that by 2030 all new buildings must be net zero. Georgetown, Texas, a small town in the middle of the Lone Star state, is aiming to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2017. This decision was based solely on the low price of wind and solar power in Texas.
Cities across the country are seizing the opportunities that renewables provide — cheaper energy, cleaner air and a more secure power grid. The incoming administration would do well to take notice.