Environmental models exist. Feldheim, a small town in Germany, generates renewable energy with a wind turbine and solar panels, and a biogas factory converts pig manure into heat, saving on heating oil and producing fertilizer as a byproduct. Germany installed more solar power for individuals than any other country, with over half of the installations owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities. Wind and solar and other renewable energy sources supply 27% of German’s electricity production, compared to 13% in the US.[i] The cost is paid for by a small surcharge on electricity bills. The German word for energy transition, energiewende, is used globally. The European Union set a goal to cut greenhouse emission by 40% from 1990 levels and achieve 27% energy from renewable sources by 2030. The countries with the best environmental records are in Europe, with the exception of Costa Rica, in third place after Sweden and Norway, with Germany and Denmark in fourth and fifth place (the US is #28).[ii]
Ghana is building the largest solar plant in Africa. Hip-hop artist Akon, who is from Senegal, promotes affordable solar energy kits for villagers that are cheaper than kerosene, as used by Kenyan women.[iii] A model Smart Home was built by the University of California, Davis, with geothermal healing, a solar system, and efficient appliances to reduce fuel and water consumption. Evergreen helps communities set up cooperative ecological programs, including school gardens and other programs for children.[iv] Among the greenist cities to study as models of green energy, farmers’ markets, and bike paths are Vancouver (British Columbia), Portland, San Francisco, New York, Curitiba (Brazil), Bogota, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Malmo, Berlin, Frieburg (Germany), Feykjavik, Singapore, Adelaide, and Cape Town.[v]
[i] Kiley Kroh, “Germany Sets New Record,” Climate Progress, May 14, 2014.
[ii] Anastasia Pantsios, “Top 10 Greenest Countries in the World,” EcoWatch, October 23, 2014.
[iii] Denis Gathanju, “Kenyan Women light Up Villages with Solar Power,” Renewable Energy World.com, July 13, 2010.
There’s some mixed news coming out of Vancouver, Canada this week. On the one hand, the city announced at an international sustainability summit that it would commit to using 100 percent renewable energy to power its electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years. On the other hand, Vancouver is also dealing with a fuel spill in the waters of English Bay that is washing up on beaches and threatening wildlife.
On March 26, Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Gregor Robertson motion calling for a long-term commitment to deriving all of the city’s energy from renewable sources. At the ICLEI World Congress 2015 this week in Seoul, South Korea, the city went a step further, committing to reaching that goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning by 2030 or 2035.
Right now, Vancouver gets 32 percent of its energy — that includes electricity, transportation, heating, and cooling — from renewable sources, so the goal is ambitious, but not impossible. According to the Guardian, Vancouver could get all of its electricity from renewables within a few years, but transportation, heating, and cooling may prove more difficult.
The city’s cars, buses, and trucks are still largely powered by gas and diesel fuel — apart from a fleet of electric trolleys — but the city is already taking measures to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used for transportation by encouraging residents to take more trips via bike, public transportation, or on foot, and reducing the average distance driven by residents 20 percent from 2007 levels.
“Cities around the world must show continued leadership to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, and the most impactful change we can make is a shift toward 100% of our energy being derived from renewable sources,” Robertson said in a statement after his motion passed. Vancouver joins cities like San Francisco, Copenhagen, and Sydney, which have also pledged to work toward 100 percent renewable energy.