Boulder Commits To Going 100 Percent Renewable

It’s the latest in a series of cities making the pledge to go totally green.

Wind turbines outside Boulder, CO. CREDIT: AP/BRENNAN LINSLEY
Wind turbines outside Boulder, CO. CREDIT: AP/BRENNAN LINSLEY

Boulder, Colorado, announced Wednesday that it would commit to being powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, making it the 17th U.S. city to make such a pledge.

The commitment only covers the city’s electricity — it does not cover sectors like transportation, which could still be powered by fossil fuels. Electricity generation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the United States, however, accounting for 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.

“Boulder is committed to achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as part of our strategy to achieve 80 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2050,” Jones told Boulder’s local CBS station on Wednesday.

If Boulder successfully transitions to 100 percent renewable-sourced electricity, it would be the second city in Colorado to do so — in 2015, Aspen began powering all buildings in the city with renewable energy. Currently, three U.S. cities — Aspen as well as Burlington, Vermont, and Greensburg, Kansas — obtain 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Boulder has been weighing the decision for several months, with the City Council showing strong support for the transition during a meeting in May of this year.

But environmental groups see transitioning the majority of American cities to 100 percent renewable energy as an attainable goal , and point to cities like San Diego, which is home to a Republican mayor, as proof that transitioning to green energy can be a bipartisan effort. While the City Council is controlled by Democrats, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer appealed to conservative and business interests by arguing a transition to 100 percent renewable energy would create jobs and remake the city’s electric grid. The San Diego City Council officially pledged to transition to 100 percent renewable energy in December of last year, days after the Paris Climate Agreement was ratified.

In January, the Sierra Club launched the #ReadyFor100 campaign, which hopes to encourage cities to pledge to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The campaign is also looking to corporations and universities for commitments.

And while the campaign’s goal — to obtain 100 commitments from cities, corporations, and universities — might seem lofty, experts argue that simply proving that a transition to 100 percent renewable energy can be successfully accomplished is a huge part of the barrier to getting cities to commit in the first place.

“Aspen was very excited about being an example to others and showing that there are challenges to overcome, but it’s possible,” Joyce McLaren, a senior energy analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who worked with Aspen during their transition, told ThinkProgress in January. “The idea that, ‘Yes we can do it, it is possible,’ is growing.