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Santa Fe’s 100 Percent Renewable Energy Resolution, New Global Research Highlights Critical Local Government Climate Change Role

Santa Fe, New Mexico is the latest in a growing roster of US cities aiming to rely entirely on renewable energy resources. The Santa Fe City Council on September 5 adopted Mayor Javier Gonzalez’s resolution to produce a feasibility study regarding the means by which the city can meet 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy resources by 2025.

New Mexico's renewable energy future

Santa Fe City Manager Brian Snyde will manage the feasibility study and present the results to the mayor and city council in 90 days, according to a news report published on the UN Climate Action website.

“The City of Santa Fe has historically been a leader in the fight against global warming and has a responsibility to continue to set a positive example for other cities, states, and countries to follow,” the resolution states. “Such a transition to utilizing 100 percent renewable energy will promote employment opportunities and economic growth in our community, facilitate local control and ownership of the city’s energy options, and bring tangible benefits of using renewable energy to the community as a whole”.

Growing roster of cities with 100% renewable energy goals

Five US cities currently rely entirely on renewable energy resources to meet all their electricity needs. More than 40 have pledged to do so over the course of coming years and decades, according to the Sierra Club.

Renewable energy resources currently supply 25 percent of Santa Fe’s electricity consumption, so there’s a long way to go. Significantly, the remaining three-quarters is delivered by the Public Service Company of New Mexico, which means the city will have to work closely and cooperatively with the utility service provider to achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goal.

Solar potential

Mayor Gonzales responded enthusiastically to the news the City Council had adopted his 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 resolution.

“There it is Santa Fe, on a unanimous vote my resolution to commit to 100 percent Renewable Energy sourcing by 2025. Work to do, but here we go!” he tweeted.

Local governments and climate change

Mayor Gonzales elaborated by saying that consolidation of the city’s energy facilities would be a key consideration since energy-efficiency retrofits of existing city facilities are considered “cost-prohibitive,” the news report notes.

Santa Fe’s 100 percent renewable energy resolution shines a light on the numerous opportunities, as well as challenges, cities, towns, and villages in the US and worldwide face as they strive to come to terms with all the direct and ripple effects rapid climate warming is and will have on ecosystems and societies.

As Donald A. Brown of Widener University wrote in an email to climate science and policy researchers this week:

“Despite the totally inadequate response of most national governments to climate change thus far, local governments around the world are beginning to step up to reduce the threat of climate change creating some hope that the world could begin to take action at the civilization challenging reduction levels necessary to avoid catastrophic human-induced climate change.

Brown is Scholar in Residence and Professor, Sustainability Ethics and Law at Widener University’s Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In a new climate and cities research paper, Brown and his colleagues explore these programs and policies, identifying 571 strategies that 44 cities around the world have adopted to reduce GHG emissions and achieve socioeconomic and environmental improvement goals.

The low-carbon planning cycle

As Brown and the report co-authors and contributors point out, many of the climate-related policies cities implement require little additional taxes or government funding. Sometimes non at all. Furthermore, they yield returns substantially in excess of their costs and outlays.

“Many of these strategies are saving money, improving the quality of life and often producing jobs Many of these strategies are creative and innovative and many could only be implemented at the local level,” he summarizes.

Local government climate policy highlights:

  • Buillding Green buildings
  • Reducing energy use in buildings
  • Other energy reduction tactics, e.g. building centralized heating, hot water and cooling for groups of buildings and creating energy and heating districts, using more recycled and locally produced materials when building roadways, lighter colored pavement
  • Increase renewable energy
  • Increase energy efficiency, e.g. trigeneration systems to heat and cool municipal buildings, implement decentralized energy networks (microgrids), replace natural gas and fossil fuel energy combustion, maximize water supply systems delivery capacity, create free canopy plans with at goal of increasing canopy cover 35 percent, as in Boston
  • Enact energy ordinances, e.g carbon taxes, update energy codes to require all homes be rated for ener use, implement net zero energy and waste ordinances
  • Transportation strategies, e.g. synchronization of traffic lights, extended transit services to suburbs, provide smart cars for in city use for a small fee, multi-use trails for non-motorized vehicles, make greater use of alternative fuel, electric renewable energy public transit vehicles, trains
  • Transform lighting, e.g. city-wide roll out of LED lighting, integration of public street lighting, electric transportation, ie integration of EV chargers, public housing lighting projects
  • Enhance waste disposal and management
    produce more biogas and bio-fertilizer, raw material recovery via recycling, integration of solar, other renewable energy with water and waste systems, increase use of authomated monitoring, ioperations and maintenance and management systems technology
    zero waste plans (SF Airport)
  • Land use planning, eg joint parking facilities, solar canopies at parking facilities, affordable green housing options as in Seattle, use parking revenues for sustainable development of neighborhoods
  • Urban in-fill sustainable development, revise zoning to favor mixed-use developments, plant trees and plants to increase canopy cover, create green zones dispersed throughout cities, renewable and energy efficiency support and assistance for home and property owners,
  • Reduce GHG emissions, e.g. better GHG audits and inventories, create baseline GHG emissions revference, short, medium and long term strategic plans
  • Create sector climate strategies
  • Funding for green energy energy efficiency transformation
    Focus on Cooperative government climate change strategies

31 Conclusions: the highlights

  • Numerous and varied options exist for local governments to strategically and significantly reduce GHG emissions at little or no cost
  • Focusing on economic benefits of climate policies helps create, garner support
  • Data and other evidence reveals implementation of climate policies yields multiple benefits, including costs savings
  • Dedicated, coordinated efforts are needed to identify and advance new climate policy funding options
  • Increasing use of public transportation and electric transportation transformation are key, core facets of climate action policy regimes
  • So are city-wide LED lighting retrofits and new roll-outs
  • Reach out and educate citizens regarding how to evaluate, monitor and reduce carbon, GHG and resource use footprints
  • Municipal and public ownership of utilities empower cities and residents capacity to craft and implement effective climate policy regimes
  • Local governments need to push more and work with higher levels of government to coordinate and implement climate policies and implementation
  • Setting goals to reduce GHG emissions, environmental and resource footprints and increase renewable energy use and energy efficiency serve as important mile markers and goals
  • Nearly all local governments and citizens save money by improving building energy efficiency
  • Establishing neighborhood, county and city-wide climate action committees which represent all stakeholders is an effective means of implementing climate policies, monitoring progress and achieving goals
  • Increasing tree canopy cover is proving an excellent means of reducing energy consumption, GHG emissions and improving environmental health and integrity
  • Creation and maintenance of “green” areas throughout cities yields numerous, varied benefits in terms of reducing GHG emissions, heating and cooling needs and improving quality of life
  • Offering energy efficiency upgrade and improvement products and services packages, eg installation of new energy efficient appliances, has the greatest impact on residential energy efficiency and use
  • Much carrot, little stick – educating, inspiring, supporting and rewarding citizens to take actions to reduce energy use, GHG emissions, resource use and waste is much more effective than punitive policies and actions when it comes to fostering broadly beneficial changes in behavior, values and attitudes.

*Images credit: 1) Public Service Co. of New Mexico; ILSR Democratic Energy Initiative; 3) Ethics and Climate.org, Widener Univ. Commonwealth School of Law

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