On May 1, Atlanta’s City Council pledged to power the city of nearly one-half million completely through renewable energy by 2035. While this may seem like a lofty goal, Atlanta is actually the 27th city in the U.S. to make such a pledge, according to the Sierra Club. San Francisco has pledged to do so by 2030, San Diego by 2035 and Salt Lake City by 2032. Six cities, including Aspen, Colo., Burlington, Vt. and Columbia, Md., have already achieved it. In addition to these population centers, 29 U.S. states have been active in adopting Renewable Portfolio Standards and targets as well.
About 70 percent of the world’s population is estimated to live in cities by 2050, the year the Sierra Club sets as the target for cities to achieve energy independence. Reducing cities’ reliance on fossil fuels by 2050 would drastically curb our impact on global warming. But the impact is on more than just the environment. Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who introduced the city’s renewable energy pledge, touts it as an important tool for job creation and a cost-savings measure for residents’ utility bills, in addition to having cleaner air and water.
Kyle Goehring, Vice President and National Director of JLL’s Clean Energy, which is a specialty in the firm’s Energy Sustainability Services, points out that the cities—and states—who have these goals will often turn to corporate America to follow suit.
“Legislative requirements and a city’s or state’s goals when it comes to utilizing more renewable sources of energy will urge corporations to be good corporate partners and join the effort,” Goehring said. “However, the opportunities are vast and can be overwhelming for a company not sure where to start. This is more than a PR stunt, it is about effective change. We partner with many companies to help align opportunities that not only meet these goals to offset current energy sources with renewable ones, but to deliver tangible results and significant cost savings on a company’s third-largest expense—its energy costs.”
Big ideas call for big plans. San Diego, with a population of 1.4 million, is the largest American city so far to make the commitment. The mayor’s Climate Action Plan calls for smarter, more efficient buildings, zero-emissions municipal vehicles and cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly traffic plans. In many ways, the plan is ahead of schedule, having already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent since 2010 despite a population growth of 5 percent. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he sees the financial cost of the pledge – $127 million in 2017 alone – as an investment in the city’s future. “The savings we earn from these actions will be reinvested back into the city, and the costs we would incur with inaction would be much greater,” he said.
Kyle Goehring is Vice President and National Director of Clean Energy, a specialty in the firm’s Energy Sustainability Services. Kyle advises corporate, investor and public-sector clients on clean energy strategies and technology opportunities.