How are Major US Cities Preparing for a Green and Sustainable Future?

On Wednesday, New York City released their newest sustainability plan, OneNYC. This is among the most detailed climate action plans in the country, focusing on four lenses: growth, equity, sustainability, and resiliency.

Some highlights of the plan include an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050, and a 30% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Other actions include planting 950,000 trees and 6 million feet of reflective rooftop and upgrading building codes to prepare for floods, wind, and extreme weather. 

In terms of renewable energy, their previous plan: PlanNYC, detailed a few projects which were expected to have a huge impact on the energy consumption of one of the largest cities in North America. These include a 10mw solar array in Staten Island's Fresh Kills Landfill, 1000mw from hydro-power, made possible through a high voltage line from Quebec to Astoria, and a 350-700mw offshore wind proposal, 20 miles from the battery in Lower Manhattan.

In light of this ambitious plan and the Earth Day celebrations that we have seen throughout this week, we want to provide a summary of what other cities are doing to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

 

LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles has also recently released their new sustainable city plan: pLAn. The City of Angels is aiming to produce clean local solar, green jobs, and energy storage, facilitate a 20% reduction in water usage by 2017, promote energy efficient building retrofits, eliminate coal from the energy mix, and reuse waste locally through resource recovery.

pLAn also includes specific renewables targets, including 900-1500wm of solar by 2025 and 1500-1800mw by 2035, with 1mw on the roof of the LA Convention Center. Uniquely, Los Angeles also has a goal of 1654-1750mw of Energy Storage by 2025, due to California's historic Energy Storage mandate.

 

CHICAGO

Currently, the Windy City has only 2mw of solar, split between six solar farms throughout the city. Their Climate Action Plan includes a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and features five distinct strategies: energy efficiency in buildings, clean and renewable energy, improved transportation, reducing waste and industrial pollution, and adapting to climate change.

While their strategy doesn't mention specific renewable targets, they are striving to reduce electricity emissions by 20%, double the household-scale renewable energy generation, and increase distributed generation and combined heat and power.

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The Golden Gate City has been a green leader ever since their first sustainable city plan was introduced in 1997. Today, San Francisco boasts a very unique Eco-District Program.

"The Eco-District Program explores innovative research and practice worldwide, and adapts essential components of next-generation infrastructure to San Francisco. Eco-Districts are neighborhood scale public-private partnerships that strengthen the economy and reduce environmental impacts while creating a stronger sense of place and community."

The four types of Eco-Districts are the Blank Slate, the Patchwork Quilt, the Strengthened Neighborhood, and Industrial Networks.

Other projects being implemented by San Francisco's Department of Sustainable Planning include a green roof policy, an urban forest master plan to expand tree canopy from 13 to 25%, sustainable urban food systems, and a partnership with SF Adapt.

San Francisco also has a very progressive Renewable Energy Task Force, which is aiming to power the metropolis with 100% renewable energy supply by 2020, featuring solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biofuels.

 

AUSTIN

Texas's most liberal city touts a sustainability mission which includes net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a healthy local food system, resource efficiency among municipal operations, and a resilient and adaptive city.

Austin has also spearheaded a Community Climate Plan with four areas of focus:  building efficiency, behavior change, resource technology, and transportation demand management. In terms of renewable energy, Austin is targetting 35% generation by 2020, 55% generation and 75% carbon-free energy by 2025, as well as divestment from ownership of a coal generation facility. Specific projects include 600mw of utility-scale solar, 450mw of wind, retirement of the Fayette Power Project by 2022, and possibly a 500mw natural gas power plant.

 

DENVER

The Mile High City has enacted extensive 2020 Sustainability Goals which include Air Quality, Climate, Energy, Food, Housing Land Use, and Water Quality.

Some specific targets include reducing energy consumed in city-operated buildings and vehicles by 20%, while doubling renewable energy produced from city facilities over the 2012 baseline.

While Denver doesn't mention any energy projects, they are also aiming for 50% renewable energy generation by 2020.

 

BOSTON

Beantown has an initiative called Greenovate Boston, which includes climate action, alternative transportation, green buildings, and an increase in renewable energy. Similar to New York City, their heated sports rival, Boston is targeting a 25% greenhouse gas reduction by 2020, and 80% by 2050.

Specific projects include a 1.5 mw wind turbine at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) facility in Charleston, 600kW turbines at Deer Island, 20kw of roof mounted wind turbines at Logan Airport's office center, and 25mw of solar.

 

SEATTLE

The Emerald City's Sustainability Plan is split into three sections: transportation & land use, building energy, and waste. Some targets include an 82% reduction of passenger vehicle emissions, 75% reduction in GHG emissions per mile, 45% decrease in commercial building emissions by 2030, and 70% of waste diverted from landfill to recycling and composting by 2022.

No specific renewables target is mentioned but neighborhood and commercial solar are part of general plan. 90% of Seattle’s power is already generated from from clean hydroelectric plants.

 

WASHINGTON DC

The U.S. capitol has a wide range of goals for 2032 in their Sustainable DC plan including five times the number of green jobs, cutting the obesity rate by 50%, slashing citywide greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by 50%, and increasing the use of renewables to 50%. No specific renewable projects were mentioned.

 

PHOENIX

Phoenix has been seen by many environmentalists as the least sustainable city in the U.S., but they recently enacted their own sustainability plan.  Specific targets include 15% renewable energy by 2025 and reducing building energy consumption by 20% below the 2009 baseline by 2020.

The southwest desert climate is optimal for solar development, and some projects include a 1.2mw system on two downtown parking garages, a 5.4mw system at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, a roof mounted 90kw system on the metro facilities building, and a 85kw solar PV canopy system at the Phoenix Children's Museum.