Chicago may be the largest city in the nation to commit to 100% renewable energy, with a 2035 target date. And the location says a lot about the future of clean energy.
Chase Tower is one of the tallest skyscrapers to dominate Chicago’s skyline. But it is not the building’s height, at 869 feet, which makes it prominent but rather what’s in it: the headquarters of Exelon, the largest owner and operator of nuclear power plants in the United States.
However, despite there being 11 nuclear reactors in operation in Illinois, the city is moving to a different power source: renewable energy. Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled the Resilient Chicago plan, which with action number 38 commits to “transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035”. The deadline for all city government buildings to be powered solely by renewables, first established in 2017, has been brought forward to 2025.
The policy has been introduced as part of environmental group the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign, and Chicago is the largest city to join the effort to date. (Editor’s note: While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced his city is on a path to 100% renewable energy, it is not clear if the formal goal is 100% renewable or 100% zero-carbon, and LA is not included in the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 list.)
The language of the Resilient Chicago text says “clean, renewable energy”, and the Sierra Club does not include nuclear as part of its Ready to 100 campaign. The new policy is a particularly interesting move for Emanuel, once considered one of the more pro-nuclear politicians in the Democratic Party, and a man who brokered the deal that created Exelon.
Community solar, electric buses
Action 37 states the city will “promote greater access to community solar”, by supporting the Illinois Power Agency’s community incentive programs and by incentivizing community solar through voluntary programs, with the Chicago Renewable Energy Challenge highlighted.
Since the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act, Chicago has seen a boom in community solar, with 1.8 GW of projects applying for block grants in just the last two weeks, more than ten times the amount the state had planned for in its block grant program.
Read more at The nuclear city goes 100% renewable