As climate change continues to be a hot off the press topic of conversation, humanity relentlessly debates appropriate next steps. Groups, whether grassroots or corporate, are beginning to take responsibility for this cause and work towards bringing about change. One of the commonly known factors causing these adverse effects on the environment is all the pollution that comes from all the non-renewable sources of energy that are used to fulfil maximum energy needs globally. In a world heavily dependent on fossil fuels, some cities are beginning to explore greener futures, by attaining 100% renewable status.
What does one mean when she says that a particular city is 100% renewable? A city becomes 100% renewable when the amount of energy generated from renewable energy sources in the territory, or sourced, equals or exceeds 100% of the annual energy consumed within that territory. Thus, I think it would be safe to say that achieving a 100% renewable target needs to be a combined effort from all the citizens but also needs direction, guidance and enforcement from a political figure. When a city leader proclaims 100% renewable energy, a city’s commitment to crafting a strategy that moves away from fossil fuels. Such a declaration does not need to be accompanied by concrete directions. Rather, it serves as a call to action to motivate local stakeholders, begin a conversation, and build a common vision of the city’s energy future. Next, further steps need to be taken to provide a roadmap to achieve this goal. Detailed and measureable targets need to be set with clearly established policies and budgets. A realistic time frame needs to be laid out keeping in mind that the goal needs to be achieved in the shortest time span possible. It is also important to decide how they want to bring about the transition to renewable energy: whether it is through sectors such as transportation or electricity, through household income levels, or through corporate or municipal levels.
In recent news, Governor Jerry Brown of California announced that the state could achieve the 100% renewable target by 2040. The biggest challenges that he identifies are storage of renewable energy and making the entire electricity grid renewable. The electricity grid is the complex interconnected network that delivers electricity from producers to consumers. For any city trying to achieve stronger dependence on renewable energy sources, this the electricity grid is the biggest hurdle.
What can be done in the Champaign-Urbana community to move towards achieving renewable energy goals? UIUC has already began advancements on the path of carbon neutrality, by implement the Illinois Climate Action Plan. For starters, we need to implement additional renewable energy sources. We see that one section of the Business Instructional Facility runs on solar panels. Another one is the solar farm, which generate 2% of the total energy consumed on campus. We need to implement more projects like this one. But for significant change, politicians, advocates, and students, need to make a collaborative and persuasive effort towards sustained pressure.