This city will soon run only on renewable energy

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • Chicago plans to run all its buildings and operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2026.
  • The move will include the US city’s two airports, its central library and main water purification plant.
  • More than 100 cities around the world now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources, according to environmental charity CDP.

The US city of Chicago runs more than 400 public buildings, including City Hall and two international airports.

Now these buildings and other city operations are to be run on 100% renewable energy.

After signing a new five-year clean energy deal with electricity supplier Constellation, the Illinois city has announced that all its facilities and operations will run on renewable energy by 2025.

Chicago says it is one of the biggest cities in the US to make this commitment, which is expected to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by more than 290,000 metric tons each year.

This is equivalent to the emissions of 62,000 passenger vehicles, according to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

City buildings go green

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 as part of the deal.

The solar energy will be sourced from a project being developed by Swift Current Energy, which is expected to be one of the largest of its kind in Illinois to date.

For other power uses, like street lights and small and medium-sized buildings, Chicago says it will buy renewable energy credits. These are certificates which show energy bought from the grid is renewable.

The city has committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 62% by 2040. This and other goals are set out in Chicago’s 2022 Climate Action Plan.

Renewable energy cities

More than 100 cities globally now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources like solar, wind, hydro and geothermal, finds a renewable energy city tracker from environmental charity CDP.

These cities include Bogotá in Colombia, Nairobi in Kenya, Montreal in Canada, Aspen in the United States, Inje in South Korea and Reykjavík in Iceland.

Cities are at home to more than half the world’s population and generate more than 70% of global carbon emissions, according to the World Economic Forum’s Net Zero Carbon Cities initiative.

This is why reducing the carbon footprint of cities is vital if global warming – which is fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity – is to be kept to well below 2°C.

The Net Zero Carbon Cities initiative aims to help cities decarbonize across their energy, built environment and transport sectors.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of the world’s population is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Urban Transformation supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner and more inclusive, and to improve citizens’ quality of life:

  • Creating a net zero carbon future for cities
    The Forum’s Net Zero Carbon Cities programme brings together businesses from 10 sectors, with city, regional and national government leaders who are implementing a toolbox of solutions to accelerate progress towards a net-zero future.
  • Helping citizens stay healthy
    The Forum is working with cities around the world to create innovative urban partnerships, to help residents find a renewed focus on their physical and mental health.
  • Developing smart city governance
    Cities, local governments, companies, start-ups, research institutions and non-profit organizations are testing and implementing global norms and policy standards to ensure that data is used safely and ethically.
  • Closing the global infrastructure investment gap
    Development banks, governments and businesses are finding new ways to work together to mobilize private sector capital for infrastructure financing.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

City climate targets

As cities wake up to the threat of climate change, more of them are developing emission reduction targets and climate action plans.

A billion people now live in a city with a renewable energy target or policy, according to the 2021 edition of the Renewables in Cities Global Status Report.

These cities include South Korea’s capital, Seoul, which aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 through action in five key areas – buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy and waste management.

The city of Adelaide in Australia has powered its municipal operations entirely from renewable energy since 2020 and is investing in technologies including battery storage and biogas.

In Cape Town, South Africa, the government hopes renewable energy will account for 40% of energy use by 2030, up from 8% in 2016. Coal is currently the country’s main energy source. But the city is now looking to procure up to 300MW of renewable energy from independent power producers, according to news site Renewables Now.

The UN expects urban populations to increase significantly in the next two decades. With bigger cities exposed to more climate and disaster-related risk, it’s vital decision makers act collectively and quickly, the World Bank says.

“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.”

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