Portland and Chicago both committed to major energy goals recently.
The City of Portland and Multnomah County, Oregon announced they want to have 100% renewable power by 2035 and a complete transition to carbon-free energy, including the transportation sector, by 2050.
While more than two dozen cities have already made renewable energy commitments for their power mixes, the enhanced goal to shift all of Portland's energy sources will be a challenge.
Portland already powers all of its city-owned building operations with renewable energy. Multnomah County will purchase green energy to meet its operational needs beginning next year.
A 100% renewable power goal is no longer an extreme vision, at least in terms of aspirational goals. Approximately 25 cities have already made the commitment according to Sierra Club.
But Portland's vision goes a step further, and includes the complete transition of the city's transportation fleet to electric vehicles.
In a statement, the city said transitioning to all-renewable energy would mean fostering Portland-area firms that produce low-carbon and environmental goods and services; moving the city's fleet of vehicles to electric; supporting the city and county work on the Climate Action Plan; and resisting federal policy changes that increase carbon emissions.
Chicago's announcement last week also contained a nod to federal policy changes. Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement saying that as the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is “doubling down.
The announcement was made atop the roof of the Shedd Aquarium, which is not a public building, but recently installed 900 solar panels. The Shedd is participating in the mayor’s Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge, which also involves installing high-efficiency lighting and large on-site batteries.
The combined energy use of the city’s buildings in 2016 was approximately 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours, which accounts for about 8% of the city’s total electricity use. This is also the equivalent of powering about 295,000 Chicago homes for the same amount of time. In recent years, the city has made significant moves towards its renewable energy goals by eliminating coal use from over one billion kilowatt hours in 2013 alone. The city also reduced its carbon emissions by 7% between 2010 and 2015.