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Green Building News

San Diego Sees 100% Renewables Ahead

The city council votes unanimously to transition completely to electricity from renewable sources by 2035

Can the eighth largest city in the U.S. really kick fossil fuels off the grid? San Diego's city council is betting on it with a new ordinance that commits the city to using electricity generated only by renewable sources by 2035.
Image Credit: Port of San Diego / Creative Commons license / Flickr

San Diego has committed itself to a renewable energy future by 2035 with a legally binding ordinance that has been years in the making. The ordinance puts the city at the forefront of national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Led by a Republican governor, the City Council voted unanimously on December 15 in favor of a Climate Action Plan that includes the transition to renewable energy, The New York Times reported, even though some of the details have yet to be worked out.

The intent is to have all electricity used in the city to come from renewable sources by 2035. Nicole Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign, said there are separate goals for transportation, which do not require 100% clean energy fuel, as the city seeks sharp reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer pitched the plan to the city’s conservative business interests by saying that it would help the economy and create jobs, but said that the plan was not a partisan issue. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Capretz, who worked on an earlier draft of the proposal, said that the city council was responding to the call of the Paris climate accord. “It’s up to cities to blaze new trails,” she said. “We’re just laying out the pathway for how to get these massive reductions worldwide.”

Capretz said that she expects that much of the city’s renewable energy would come from photovoltaic installations, “a lot of homegrown solar on rooftops and parking lots.”

California already has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

City plan spells out goals

While some details have yet to take shape, an article in the The San Diego Union-Tribune lists a number of climate plan benchmarks, including a reduction in vehicle trips in designated transit areas by 20% in five years and 50% in 20 years, a boost in the urban tree canopy, more recycling, and an increase in zero-emission vehicles in the city government’s fleet to 90% in two decades.

The Climate Action Plan foresees a number of benefits from the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including:

  • Advances in clean technology industries, such as renewable energy, information technology, and waste management.
  • Revitalizing “pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.”
  • Improving city transportation options.
  • Creating well-paying jobs in high-growth green industries.
  • Making communities that are resilient to climate change.

“The potential impacts of a changing climate — higher seasonal temperatures, worsening air quality, diminished water supplies, disruption of agricultural cycles — have great consequences not only for the built and natural environment, but also for the community’s health and economic vitality,” the plan says. “However, since we directly and indirectly influence the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the major cause of climate change, we are uniquely positioned to respond.”

According to the Union-Tribune, environmental groups and the state attorney general could file lawsuits forcing the city to comply if it fails to follow through.

“The most controversial decision could be whether to implement community choice aggregation, or CCA, a program that would take control away from the local electric utility when deciding how much renewable energy a city uses,” the newspaper reported.

“However, when it comes to meeting San Diego’s transportation goals, elected officials may face an even more complicated puzzle,” the article continued. “With vehicle emissions representing more than half of the city’s greenhouse gases, the newly minted Climate Action Plan will fail if residents don’t significantly cut back on the number of miles they drive.”

One Comment

  1. user-3549882 | | #1

    San Diego 100% Renewables by 2035
    It's been a while since I lived in San Diego. Terrific weather. Just add water. A great place.

    This commitment to renewables is impressive to me, especially with the stipulation that the State attorney will prosecute any failures to perform to the plan. No wiggle room? (Accountability is sometimes hard to find: "some details have yet to be worked out", "... will fail if residents don't significantly cut back on the number of miles they drive".)

    I take it San Diego Gas and Electric (Sempra) will no longer have a contract to provide (conventional) services effective 2035 and that the U.S. Navy has a plan to meet it's considerable needs under the new circumstances. Maybe SDGE is interested in converting to 'renewable generation only' for delivery within the city?

    Very impressive. Just going for it is impressive. Actually delivering will be the more so. Bon chance.

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