100% Renewable Commitments, Part 2: Key Strategies for Success

In our last blog post, we discussed the growing trend towards communities committing to 100% renewable energy, and why this is becoming a common climate action strategy. In this post we will discuss the key strategies that will allow communities that have made this commitment to see success.

The Roadmap to 100%

The strategies and steps that communities and businesses can take to commit to 100% renewable energy will inevitably vary by the geographic area, policy and regulatory environment, and flexibility in approach. There are, however, a set of established steps that are recommended to consider when starting towards this ambitious goal:

  • Don’t forget about efficiency

Alongside pursuing renewable energy, it is recommended to reduce actual energy consumption as much as possible. For local communities, this may look like energy audits and retrofits in publicly-owned facilities, as well as loan and grant programs that encourage private building and home owners to make upgrades and retrofits. The impact that building codes have on efficiency should not be overlooked—where possible, setting prescriptive building standards and/or “beyond code requirements” that require new buildings, or buildings with major upgrades, to be built to a certain level of efficiency will ensure that as the community grows, its energy consumption may grow at a slower rate. While at times the upfront cost to implement energy efficiency projects can be very high, having a lean and efficient building portfolio will require less renewable energy overall to offset the energy usage. Supporting energy efficiency measures also provides secondary benefits to both communities and individual building and home owners, such as lower energy costs in the long-term. It should be noted, however, that renewable energy projects tend to have a quicker impact on emissions and climate action strategies than energy efficiency programs, which tend to take longer to implement and result in significant change.

  • Begin small generation projects, and grow these over time

Communities and companies that own many physical assets, such as buildings, landfills, and parks, may have the opportunity to make productive use of these assets via roof-top and ground-mounted solar, small-scale wind, and geothermal systems. These projects may generate enough energy to offset electricity consumption for publicly-owned facilities and municipal activities. Over time, as more energy uses are transitioned to electricity (see below), these assets can expand to allow for additional power generation. However, it should be noted that though this piecemeal approach may be more politically palatable and easier to implement, small-scale renewable energy projects are generally more expensive (over the long-term) to implement than larger, utility-scale renewable energy projects.

  • Transition away from non-electric fuel uses

Once the grid begins to be powered by more renewable energy, its potential to impact emissions from traditionally non-electric sources in the stationary and mobile sectors grows. By electrifying energy-consumption sectors that traditionally are not powered by electricity, we allow for the possibility that these sectors can be powered by renewable energy. Many communities that are striving towards 100% renewable energy in all sectors are considering the importance of electrifying the heating of buildings, encouraging or mandating a switch to all-electric vehicles in city fleets and for the public, and of switching other equipment as necessary to electricity. As the mix of fuels, and therefore the emissions levels, that power grids across the country can vary widely, this strategy is most effective at reducing emissions and advancing a community’s climate action strategy when they have access to a greener grid that is powered by renewable and low-carbon resources.

  • Communicate and collaborate

The importance of collaborating with the local utility and wholesale power providers, with local businesses and companies that have a renewable generation goal, and with non-profit organizations that are focused on bringing renewables to market, cannot be overlooked. By engaging a variety of stakeholders in the discussion, opportunities may be presented that previously were not feasible—perhaps a closed landfill can be an ideal site for a community solar array, or a partnership with a local university and renewable generation company can allow for technological research and development while providing power to a community.

Achieving 100% renewable energy is a noble and challenging goal, and the specific approach for each community will look different. If your community or business is interested in going 100% renewable for electricity or all energy sectors, please reach out to us, as we would be happy to help you develop a plan that is tailored to be effective for your unique community and goals