Chicago Is Pledging To Lead The Nation In Renewable Energy

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 11, 2017 7:41PM

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Chicago has its share of LEED-certified buildings and natural amenities that fit the bill of "ecotourism," but the city threw down the green gauntlet over the weekend with what might be its most notable sustainability pledge yet. All of the city's public buildings will operate fully on renewable energy by 2025, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged on Sunday. If realized, the move would make the Chicago the largest major city to do so.

All buildings operated by the city—including government buildings, Chicago Public Schools, park district buildings, Chicago Housing Authority spaces, and community colleges—will be powered 100 percent through renewable energy, the mayor and other city officials announced on Sunday. Emanuel made the announcement on the roof of Shedd Aquarium, which right now sports more than 900 solar panels.

To achieve the ambitious plan, the city would use a mix of energy credits, "utility-supplied renewable energy" (via the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard) and installed on-site modules, like those solar panels at Shedd, according to a release. The city will begin making the necessary purchases next year.

Rahm, who got in a shot at his favorite foil during the announcement, called the move a "clear signal" in the push for energy independence. "As the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is doubling down," said Emanuel in a press release. "By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st century economy here in Chicago."

The city estimates that public buildings consumed some 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity lat year—or 8 percent of all local electricity use.

The Sierra Club championed the news. Jack Darin, president of the environmental advocacy group's Illinois chapter said:

"Today's action is a historic step forward in establishing Chicago as a clean energy leader. By moving boldly to repower its public buildings with renewable energy like wind and solar, Chicago is leading by example at a time when local leadership is more important than ever. While President Trump and his administration would reverse America's progress on climate change and clean energy, Mayor Emanuel is ensuring that Chicago will move forward, and that its residents will benefit from the good jobs and cleaner air that come from renewable energy projects. We look forward to working with the Mayor, community leaders, and the people of Chicago to achieve this bold goal on the path to eventually powering all of Chicago with 100% clean energy."