The Renewable 42

Cities hold the key to a carbonless future. And among the world’s tens of thousands of cities with populations of 50,000 or more, 42 stand out as true sustainability role models.

That’s because these 42 source all of their electricity from renewable sources. That’s a 100-percent carbonless footprint covering every kilowatt citywide and not just in city buildings or on city properties.

The Renewable 42 are among more than 100 global municipalities that get 70 percent or more of their power from renewables, and 184 that have at least some level of solar in their energy mix.

Although covering just a fraction of the global metropolitan map, the cities in the spotlight of the latest report from CDP, a London-based energy and climate monitoring organization, prove that transition from a carbon- to renewables-based society is not only possible but happening.

A closer look at the CDP findings suggests that a carbonless future isn’t reserved for small municipalities only. From Auckland and Oslo to Nairobi, Brasília and Seattle, a renewables-based grid has become an equal-opportunity reality. 

Of the 42 cities on the 100-percent renewables list, 30 are in Latin America, consistent with the region’s expedited investment in solar energy infrastructure and technology.

Burlington, Vt., is the only U.S. city to make the 100-percent renewables club, thanks to its hybrid grid of biomass, hydroelectric, wind and solar. Canada’s Prince George, B.C., and Winnipeg, Manitoba, round out North America.  

Three U.S. cities – Seattle, Eugene, Ore., and Aspen, Colo. – made the 70-percent renewables list, which is similarly dominated by Central and South America.

The fact that more than 50 U.S. cities have committed to an entirely carbonless future, including Atlanta, San Francisco and San Diego, suggests that America’s renewables profile is bound to grow.

In 2017, more than 7,400 mayors from the United States and beyond pledged to work together to meet renewable energy commitments by sharing best practices and agreeing to universal standards for data tracking and sharing.

Despite indifference from some political leaders, cities in the United States and around the world are rushing to decarbonize their power grids to create a cleaner, brighter future. 

And we couldn’t be happier.

Leslie Gomez