In 2014, Burlington, Vermont, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Senator Bernie Sanders’ Belly Ground announced it had arrived An energy milestone. The city of 42,000, which embraces the banks of Lake Champlain, produced enough electricity from renewable sources to meet all its electricity needs. The city government, Burlington, was one of the first “renewable cities” in America.
Since then, Burlington has joined Georgetown, Texas, Aspen, colorado, And some other small towns around the country. And although some cities have a head start — Burlington benefits from huge amounts of hydroelectricity and enough wood to burn the biol — many who depend on fossil fuels for electricity are joining it today. More than 170 cities and towns Has pledged to shift its electricity supply from coal and natural gas to solar, wind and hydropower throughout the US. St. Louis, Which currently derives only 11 percent from renewable energy, says it will run on fully renewable energy by 2035; Dependent on coal Denver Promised to do the same by 2030.
Lacey Shaver, the city’s renewable energy manager at the World Resources Institute, said via email, “Cities are setting these goals and trying to move from very low percentages to 100 percent of renewable goods at extremely ambitious times. ” “This is an exciting time for the city’s energy works.”
But are cities really 100 percent renewable … 100 percent renewable? The reality is a bit complex – and it illustrates the challenges of true, “deep” decrobation of electricity in the United States.
First, shifting to clean electricity does not mean that a city outshines its carbon footprint – residents may still be able to drive gas-powered cars or heat their homes with natural gas is. Even the majority of claims to run on “clean” electricity come with cavits: cities actually mean that they use wind, solar or other clean sources to balance the power they use during the year Buy enough electricity. For renovation-filled locations like Vermont, this is not such a big deal. But in other areas, no city can use all renewable electricity in real time. Even when the sun is not shining and the wind is not moving, the electrons need to flow through the grid to keep the light on. And at the moment, a lot of relevant energy comes from non-renewable sources, mainly natural gas and coal.
“There really is no city that operates as an island in electricity,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin. “You’re going to connect to a big grid.” There is no such thing as “fossil fuel electrons” and “renewable electrons” – when it reaches the grid, it all receives electricity simultaneously. This means that a city that is 100 percent renewable from time to time, can source its electricity from fossil fuels. Because of this, Rhodes says that targets to run renewable are more like an accounting mechanism than a net statement of the city’s energy sources.
At the moment, this is not a major problem: most cities have a long way to go to reach that level. US electricity grid is still over 60 percent Powered by fossil fuels, and most cities get only 15 percent of electricity from renewable energy. When municipal governments buy renewable energy – even if they are still leaning into large grids – they increase the demand for wind and solar installations. But in the long run, experts say that this strategy is not going to completely remove the country from fossil fuels.