By - Jim Vess

Renewables accelerator to help cities procure 2.8 gigawatts for clean energy in two years

Energize Weekly, March 6, 2019

A program to help cities obtain 2.8 gigawatts of renewable generation—more than the total existing solar capacity in Nevada, Florida and Texas—was launched Feb. 26.

The program—a joint effort by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN)—will provide technical expertise in helping cities obtain large-scale offsite renewable energy and deploy renewables locally.

It is modeled after RMI’s Business Renewables Center (BRC), which helps corporations purchase renewable energy, primarily through purchase power agreements.

In 2018, the BRC helped business obtain a record 6.53 gigawatts of renewable power.

The technical resources from the “American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator”—primarily from RMI and WRI—will be available to the 25 cities selected in early February for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ two-year American Cities Climate Challenge, as well as the nearly 200 USDN members.

“The role cities must play in spurring demand for renewable energy and accelerating the clean energy transition has never been more important,” Antha N. Williams, head of environmental programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said in a statement. “We are excited to work with some of America’s most ambitious cities to deepen their renewable procurement efforts, tackle climate change and ultimately deliver for their communities.”

The Bloomberg climate challenge is backed by $70 million and covers not only electricity generation, but initiatives such as expanding mass transit and reducing single-occupancy vehicle use.

Minneapolis, one of the climate challenge cities, is seeking to serve the entire city with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

“Many of the largest cities in the U.S. are working through these issues at the same time,” Kim Havey, director of Minneapolis’ Division of Sustainability, said in a statement. “Minneapolis is excited to work with the Renewables Accelerator to come up with innovative solutions that allow us and Xcel Energy, our utility, to work together on decarbonization, and pave the way for other cities to follow suit.”

Pittsburgh, also a climate challenge winner, hopes to promote clean energy for the entire region by working with the Western Pennsylvania Energy Consortium (WPEC), which enables Pittsburgh to purchase energy on the wholesale market.

“Through WPEC, we’ve created the opportunity to influence how we source our electricity—the next step is legally enabling this group to directly procure or invest in large-scale clean energy projects,” said Grant Ervin, chief resilience officer of the city of Pittsburgh. “With assistance from the Renewables Accelerator, we hope to make that goal a reality.”

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