Subnational Governments and Corporations Take Charge of the Renewable Energy Transition
UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz
story highlights

Subnational governments in the US, Australia and Norway, as well as US corporations, are increasingly taking on renewable energy targets of their own.

In several cases, measures are driven by a combination of cost savings and intentions to achieve multiple SDGs including SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 13 (climate action).

5 September 2017: Subnational governments in the US, Australia and Norway, as well as US corporations, are increasingly taking on their own renewable energy targets, committing to climate neutrality, undertaking next generation renewable energy projects and helping former fossil fuel industry employees transition to clean energy jobs. These efforts will contribute to realizing a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 13 (climate action), among others.

City of Santa Fe Commits to 100% Renewable Energy

The city council of Santa Fe in New Mexico, US, has adopted a resolution to develop a feasibility study on achieving 100% percent renewable electricity by 2025. The move is also expected to increase employment opportunities and economic growth, and facilitate local control and ownership of Santa Fe’s energy options. To date, 25% of Santa Fe’s energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources, particularly from solar installations on municipal buildings. Five US cities meet their energy needs from renewable energy and more than forty have committed to achieving 100% renewable energy in the near future, according to the Sierra Club. The city will consider consolidating, rather than retrofitting, its energy facilities to ensure cost efficiency. The mayor also introduced a resolution to ensure that city funds are not allocated to fossil fuels. Previously, Santa Fe passed a resolution stating its intent to become carbon neutral by 2040, and has undertaken the development of a 25-year sustainability plan that addresses renewable energy, energy efficiency, land use, water use and carbon emission reductions. [Climate Action Programme News Story][Santa Fe Government Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Homepage][Santa Fe’s 25-year Sustainability Plan]

Legislation Planned to Transition Fossil-Fuel Industry Workers towards Clean Energy Jobs

US Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., from New Jersey has announced he will introduce legislation to help transition displaced fossil fuel industry workers towards clean energy jobs through educational, apprenticeship and other job training opportunities. In a statement, Pallone underscored the importance of government support for workers going through this transition, noting that while clean energy jobs have been growing by around 6% annually, jobs in the fossil fuel industry have decreased. Pallone, who is on the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, plans to introduce the legislation in the fall of 2017. [Press Release on Congressman Pallone’s Website][Climate Action Programme News Story]

Norwegian Municipality Becomes World’s First to Join UN’s Climate Neutral Now Initiative

The Norwegian city of Arendal has become the first municipality in the world to join the UN Climate Neutral Now initiative, thus committing to measure and reduce emissions as much as possible, and offsetting all unavoidable emissions. The city’s own operations have been climate neutral since 2008, and the municipality now aims to make its shipping, forestry, mining and tourism sectors climate neutral as well. Arendal is already phasing out fuel oil consumption for heating purposes, obtaining efficient electric technology, and utilizing online business meetings to avoid emissions from travel. To achieve its climate neutrality goal, Arendal also aims to: reduce fossil fuel consumption in transportation by increasing biofuel and electric vehicle use; and buy renewable power to cover emissions from purchased electricity. [UNFCCC Press Release][Climate Neutral Now Website][Arendal Municipality Website]

Victoria Could Be First Australian State to Legally Bind Renewable Energy Targets

The government of the Australian State of Victoria has introduced a bill to Parliament, which, if passed, could make it the first Australian state to implement legally-binding renewable energy targets, in a bid to reduce electricity bills as well as emissions. Titled ‘Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017,’ the regulation will implement the Victoria Renewable Energy Targets (VRET) to achieve 25% renewable energy by 2020 and 40% by 2025. It will also promote the construction of wind and solar power projects through a reverse auction mechanism to procure 650MW of new renewable energy projects. The first auction will open in October 2017 and is expected to mobilize US$1.3 billion in investment and create 1,250 temporary construction jobs. Approximately 138 MW of new large-scale solar projects will also be built to power Melbourne’s tram network. [Climate Action Programme News Story][Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets Website] [Government of Vitoria Press Release][News Story on the Premier of Victoria’s Website][Renewable Energy Bill Fact Sheet]

In other news from Australia, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has published the 2017 Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO), which provides technical and market data to help market participants, new investors and policymakers make decisions as they assess opportunities in the National Electricity Market (NEM) over a 10-year period. The ESOO assesses whether the 2026–27 electricity supply will be adequate given additional renewable generation in response to Australia’s federal and state renewable energy targets and/or in response to potential generation outages. The ESOO also: identifies an increased risk of unserved energy demand over the next 10 years; notes that the energy market reliability standard will not be met; and underscores the importance of additional firming capacity, especially during the summer, to reduce the risk of supply interruptions. [2017 Electricity Statement of Opportunities]

The state of South Australia is undertaking efforts to support next generation (nextgen) renewable energy projects related to firming renewable energy generation, bulk energy storage and bioenergy through a US$150 million Renewable Technology Fund. The fund will finance a grid-scale battery storage project run by Tesla, and partially fund a 150MW solar thermal project in Port Augusta. [Climate Action Programme News Story][Press Release on South Australian Premier’s Website] [South Australia Energy Plan and Investment Guidelines]

The first Australian Renewable Energy Index was also recently published, which finds that renewable energy projects are able to power 70% of Australia’s households, and that, once projects in the pipeline are completed, solar and wind energy projects will supply electricity to 90% of the country’s homes. [Renewable Energy Index]

Surveyed Corporations Identify Cost Reduction as Most Important Driver of Increased Renewable Energy Use

The US government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has not affected the commitment of corporations to increase renewable energy use in their operations, according to a report that surveyed 94 major corporations and institutions, mostly based in the US and Canada. The report, ‘Post-Paris: The State of Corporate Renewable Energy Sourcing,’ finds that large electricity users and cites’ energy cost reductions are the most important reason for transitioning to renewable energy. According to the publication, sixty percent of the companies surveyed stated that their interest in renewable energy had increased over the past year. Other important drivers included greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and meeting renewable energy targets. ‘Green branding’ and consumer demand, however, were the least important drivers. According to Smart Energy Decisions founder John Failla, this finding “explodes the myth that brand image/marketing value is the leading reason to source renewable energy.” The report also underscores the importance of the ‘leapfrog effect’ in transitioning to renewables. It explains that while large electricity consumers are further along in their renewable energy transition, the commercial sector and smaller energy consumers are increasingly sourcing renewable energy. The main reasons for this shift are: declining renewable energy costs; expansion of purchasing mechanisms and financial terms available to corporations that deploy renewables; and pressure from larger companies with major sustainability commitments. The report was published by ‘Smart Energy Decisions, an information and research platform that specializes in commercial and industrial users. [Smart Energy Decisions Press Release] [Climate Action Programme News Story]

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