Chicago to power city with 100% renewables


The US city of Chicago plans to run more than 400 public buildings, including City Hall and two international airports, with 100% renewable electricity.

Chicago says it is one of the biggest cities in the U.S. to make this commitment, which is expected to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by more than 290,000 metric tons each year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s equivalent to the emissions of 62,000 passenger vehicles.

The Illinois city has signed a new five-year clean energy deal with electricity supplier Constellation. As part of the agreement, Chicago’s two airports, its central library and its Jardine Water Purification Plant, the biggest water treatment plant in the world, will run partially on solar energy.

The solar energy will be supplied by a project being developed by Swift Current Energy in downstate Sangamon and Morgan counties, which is expected to be one of the largest of its kind in Illinois to date.

The city will also purchase renewable energy credits to show energy bought from the grid is renewable for its other power uses, such as small and medium-sized buildings and streetlights.

Under Chicago’s 2022 Climate Action Plan, the city has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 62% by 2040.

More than 100 cities globally are using at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources, including Bogotá in Colombia, Nairobi in Kenya, Montreal in Canada, Aspen in the United States, Inje in South Korea, and Reykjavík in Iceland, according to a renewable energy city tracker from environmental charity CDP.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Net Zero Carbon Cities initiative, cities consume 78% of the world’s primary energy, generate more than 70% of global carbon emissions. Therefore, reducing carbon footprint of cities is vital for combating global warming.

As cities wake up to effects of climate change, more cities are coming up with emission reduction targets and climate action plans. 

Seoul, South Korea’s capital, aims to reach carbon neutral by 2050 through action in five key areas including buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy, and waste management.

Since 2020, the city of Adelaide in Australia has run its municipal operations 100% by renewable energy and is investing in technologies including battery storage and biogas.

In Cape Town, South Africa, coal is currently its main energy source. It plans to increase the share of renewable energy usage to 40% by 2030, up from 8% in 2016. The city is looking to buy up to 300 MW of renewable energy from independent power producers.

The UN expects a sharp rise in urban populations in the next two decades. With larger cities facing more climate and disaster-related risks, the World Bank says that decision-makers must act collectively and quickly. 

“Building cities that ‘work’ – inclusive, healthy, resilient, and sustainable – requires intensive policy coordination and investment choices. National and local governments have an important role to play to take action now, to shape the future of their development, to create opportunities for all,” the World Bank says.

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