Midwest Lags National Clean Energy Policy Rankings • Missouri Independent
An analysis of 100 major cities by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that nationwide, cities are largely off track to meet their own greenhouse gas reduction targets and / or they do not collect data that would allow them to significantly record these emission reductions.
The ACEEE assessed cities on the sustainability of buildings, renewable energy, transportation, government initiatives and community impact.
Overall, cities in the Midwest lagged behind the coasts, with just three cities in the region ranking in the top 20: Minneapolis in 4th, Chicago in 12th, and St. Paul in 20th. Madison, at 39th place, was the most improved city in the country, while Milwaukee is down significantly from last year’s report at 53rd.
St. Louis ranked 28th, while Kansas City ranked 36th.
On the greenhouse gas emissions front, 63 out of 100 cities nationwide have adopted a reduction target. However, only 38 are tracking data in a way that would allow them to achieve these goals, and only 19 are on track to do so. âIt’s hard to change what you don’t follow in the first place,â said Stefen Samarripas, ACEEE local policy manager and lead author of the report.
The ACEEE prioritized race and fairness in the rankings for the first time this year. Cities generally did not perform well on this front, leading to lower rankings. Only 30 of the 177 new clean energy actions taken by the 100 cities focused on equity.
The ranking also for the first time considered the transport sector, responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Only 25 cities have adopted transport sector targets. Three are on track to meet them, according to a statement from ACEEE, and “17 of 25 cities were unable to provide enough data to assess their progress.”
âWhen it comes to transport, some cities have more influence over what happens with their transport and transit systems than others,â Samarripas said.
âWhen you work to reduce energy use or greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, you will need to work with many partners outside of municipal government. This could be the local transport authority or large companies that move freight. This may involve working with the state government to think about the different levers that can be pulled to reduce [transportation] energy consumption and emissions. Ultimately, what we’ve seen nationally is that transportation is the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gases in the United States, and the data shows that emissions are increasing.
Madison climbed to 39th place – up 25 from last year – in part because of its investments in clean transportation and electric vehicles. These include requiring all new parking structures to be equipped with electric vehicle charging and deploying a rapid electric bus transport system by 2024.
âThe city has launched a complete overhaul of our fleet operations with a dramatic ramp-up of more than 60 EVs, more than 100 Hybrid EVs and Wisconsin-made biodiesel for all trucks,â said Jessica Price, responsible for resilience and responsible for sustainable development. Price added that “The Madison Fire Department uses the first and only operational electric fire truck in North America, made in Wisconsin.”
Three-quarters of the City of Madison’s operations are powered by renewable energy, with a target of 100% renewable energy for the city’s operations by 2030. Price said that “to achieve that goal, we need to adopt an innovative and multidimensional approach that has so far included behind- the solar meter in city installations, participation in [utility] MGE’s Renewable Energy Rider program and the purchase of renewable energy credits.
Madison installed 1.3 megawatts of solar power at city facilities and 2 MW through city-backed community solar installations, according to Price.
âThe majority of solar installations at the city’s facilities have been completed through our Green Power Solar Workforce Training Program, which prepares people for jobs in the renewable energy sector,â Price said. .
Milwaukee, meanwhile, lost points to other cities for its lack of investment in municipal renewables, an area where the city has been directly hampered by opposition from the We Energies utility and lack of state clarity on solar ownership by third parties.
This autumn a bill has been tabled to the legislature, it could finally make it clear that third-party ownership is legal and pave the way for Milwaukee to complete a planned solar installation on its municipal buildings, with the panels owned by developer Eagle Point. Currently, Milwaukee has 209 kilowatts of solar power on buildings in the city, according to the ACEEE.
Wisconsin state law also does not allow localities to impose building energy use requirements that are more stringent than state standards, a measure that can hamper the progress of individual cities.
“Wisconsin’s building codes lag behind the national standard for energy efficiency and green building practices, and state law restricts our ability to establish more efficient local energy codes,” Price said. âNonetheless, we are working with local stakeholders to collaboratively develop solutions to help our residents save energy and lower utility bills. “
Fairness and moving forward
Madison was among the cities that received high marks for equity, with programs that included subsidized energy efficiency upgrades in affordable rental housing, and a focus on the resilience of vulnerable communities most affected by the effects of change. climate such as flooding and extreme heat.
Minneapolis has received praise for its commitment to fairness, including its green zones initiative. The city identified two neighborhoods most affected by pollution and worked with them to develop local five-year sustainability plans. More than two-thirds of low-income Minneapolis residents have access to high-quality public transportation, a much higher percentage than most cities. One in five low-income residents in Madison has access to high-quality public transportation.
Samarripas said cities need to build equity into all of their sustainability investments.
âHistorically marginalized communities across the country are often the first and hardest hit by the effects of climate change,â he said. âFirst and foremost, cities need to ensure they take an equitable approach to driving community engagement before and during [implementing policies] and in the evaluation of their policies and programs. It is really important to make sure that these historically marginalized communities are at the table.
Prioritizing equity is only more important given the impact of the pandemic on marginalized communities. The pandemic has also affected the way cities have approached and envisioned their sustainability plans, ACEEE noted, derailing some efforts but also pushing cities to focus on the future.
âIn the months since the lockdowns across the country, we have seen cities retooling and refocusing their energy on planning efforts, perhaps unable to launch the programs they were hoping for,â Samarripas said.
âThe pandemic has hit cities in different ways – some cities have really experienced substantial budget cuts and staff in a sustainability or resilience office have moved to focus on other work. Some cities have rethought their [sustainability] work to align it with all other city priorities [elevated by the pandemic] – things like focusing on local economic recovery [and] prepare for crises.