Want to know how your city and county can help meet global decarbonization goals? Take a look at the nearly 100 U.S. local governments that procured more than 3,600 megawatts of clean power last year.
That’s the purpose of last week’s report from the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator, a joint program of RMI and the World Resources Institute (WRI). The Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded group exists to help the more than 180 cities and counties with zero-carbon commitments find clean-energy buying opportunities that fit their regulatory environments.
In the past five years, the number of buyers and the size of clean energy deals they are making have grown rapidly, tripling to 3,600 megawatts across 143 deals by 95 governments in 33 states in 2020, according to the latest data.
That’s nearly one-tenth of the nationwide total of annual clean power additions through 2025 needed to keep the country on a path to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Fahrenheit, said Tatsatom Gonçalves, research analyst for WRI’s Energy Program, in a webinar last week.
As in years past, the biggest share came in the form of physical power-purchase agreements (PPAs) with new solar and wind projects, he said.
PPAs remain the predominant pathway for contracting for new clean power projects. California, where municipalities and community choice aggregators are adding gigawatts of renewables and energy storage, and Texas, where falling wind and solar costs are driving cities to sign project deals with retail energy providers, led the pack, with nearly four-fifths of the megawatt total.
Two record-breaking deals for local governments completed in 2020 fit this profile. The first was the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s 331 MW wind power procurement from the Red Cloud Wind project in New Mexico. The second was the city of Houston’s deal with its retail energy provider, Reliant Energy, to purchase the roughly 1 million megawatt-hours per year it needs to serve its municipal operations from a newly built solar project in Texas.
But 10 other states broke new local government contracting records, according to the group’s local government renewables transaction tracker. In Tennessee, the city of Nashville teamed up with Vanderbilt University on a 125 MW solar farm deal through the federal Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Invest program. Colorado Springs, Colo. and Boston, Mass. also inked 100-megawatt PPAs last year, joining similarly large deals in Orlando, Fla., Kansas City, Kan. and Wisconsin rural electric cooperative WPPI Energy over the past three years.