100 % Renewable Power in San Francisco, US


Maximizing San Francisco’s high solar potential

This is the fourth in a six-part series featuring case studies that illustrate what regenerative urban development looks like in practice.

In 2010 the mayor of San Francisco, US announced a 100 % renewable electricity target to be achieved within ten years. The target – building on the 51% Renewable Portfolio Standard set in 2007 for 2017 – can be seen as one instrument to fulfil the Climate Change Goals Ordinance, adopted in 2008, which set high greehouse gas reduction targets. While the ordinance only stipulates greenhouse gas-free electrictiy production by 2013, the 100% goes one step further.

San Francisco

“We need public participation and engagement to make the programme work.” – Dannielle Murray, Renewable Energy Program Manager, Department of the Environment, San Francisco, US, at FCF 2013

The mayor initiated a task force to create strategies to reach the 100% by 2020 aim. It sought to involve all relevant stakeholders like local renewable energy leaders, business and community actors, representatives from environmental NGOs, labour, utilities, and relevant city departments. This participatory approach facilitated a higher level of co-determination and through that helped to raise public support for the project as well as involved the necessary technical expertise from Stanford University and UC Berkeley. The task force first conducted a feasibility study and then identified three tools the city should use to become 100% renewable:

(i) Increased energy efficiency, which reduces energy demand;
(ii) Increased local and decentralised energy production, which improves energy security and strengthens the local economy; and
(iii) Option for customers to purchase 100% renewable electricity where locally generated renewable electricity is not available.

It also recommended that the funding of new renewable power plants be backed by private sector investments. In order to achieve implementation, the task force proposed a local feed-in-tariff, the adoption of a rooftop solar policy, net metering and an up-to-date planning and permitting process. As the city has a very high solar potential, on the task force emphasised policies for rooftop solar installations on newly constructed and renovated buildings as well as solar water heating.

Between 2010 and 2011 the share of renewables in San Francisco was raised by five percentage points, reaching a 46% renewables mix in electricity. The municipality is taking a leadership role by running all municipal operations and San Francisco International Airport entirely on renewable energy.

These developments were made possible by an active and involved mayor, engaged stakeholders and support from an enabling policy environment on the state level: California state legislation passed in 2002 led to the creation of a Community Choice Aggregation programme in San Francisco that allows local authorities to aggregate the buying power of individual customers in their constituencies in pursuing renewable energy supplies.

San Francisco’s bid to reach 100% renewable energy shows how regional conditions can be optimised to tap the full potential of renewable energies. It is becoming a more regenerative city by prioritising local generation of renewable electricity, thus decreasing its dependence on fuel and electricity imports as well as private utilities, which allows the city more control in steering towards its 100% target.

This text is an excerpt from a new report by the World Future Council on Regenerative Urban Development: A roadmap to the city we need.

WFC report Regenerative Urban Development cover thumbnailThe report is an outcome of the discussions at the Future of Cities Forum 2013 surrounding the vision of regenerative cities. It explores a selection of the case studies presented at the Forum to outline the value creation resulting from regenerative urban development, the obstacles in the way of progress, and tools to help overcome those challenges.

Thursday, June 12th, 2014


1 Stories, examples and pioneers for 100% Renewable Energy | Go100re.net { 10.27.14 at 15:55 }

[…] examples that are worth to explore: the German cities Frankfurt and Munich, Sydney in Australia and San Francisco in the US. Each of them is pursuing an individual strategy, incl. citizen involvement, top-down policy […]

2 The right answer to alarming climate science: 100 % renewable energy — World Future Council { 10.29.14 at 15:07 }

[…] Meanwhile big cities around the world have set a 100% renewables target including the German cities Frankfurt and Munich, Sydney in Australia and San Francisco in the US. […]

3 Anna Leidreiter and Kaisa Kosonen: The answer to alarming climate science: 100% renewable energy » TckTckTck | The Global Call for Climate Action { 11.01.14 at 07:28 }

[…] Meanwhile big cities around the world have set a 100% renewables target including the German cities Frankfurt and Munich, Sydney in Australia and San Francisco in the US. […]