Following up on my initial “10 Cleantech Solutions Your City Should Implement” post, here are 10 more cleantech solutions for cities.
The idea behind these articles and the solutions highlighted in them is not to just have fun writing about some of my favorite cleantech solutions. And the idea is not to just get a few claps from readers and make everyone feel better that there are indeed solutions Santa Claus can implement for a climate-positive Christmas. (Santa is of course a climate realist. Despite his obsessive focus on consumerism, his property will be ruined and his elf community demolished if the North Pole melts. That’s also why all of Santa’s toy production is now powered by solar power, wind power, hydropower, and elf sweat & blood — but don’t get me started on that socioeconomic issue.)
To be very clear, the goal of these articles is to persuade more of our readers (you) to get out there and get these ideas implemented in more cities, counties, states, and countries. Whether via a government, business, or nonprofit approach, more of us need to run with these ideas in order to create a more positive future. A few readers and I are doing so with one of the ideas presented in the first article in this series. Another reader is a fresh new city councilor in a Silicon Valley city and will surely be working to implement cleantech solutions in that work (and perhaps blogging about it and crowdsourcing ideas here on CleanTechnica). I hope more of you will feel driven in this odd political environment to bring solutions like the ones below to cities in the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, India, Australia, South Africa, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Antigua & Barbuda, and the Bahamas — yes, we have subscribers in all of those places, among others. 😀
1. Free EV Charging & Parking
EV charging or electric cars — which must come first? That’s the ongoing chicken & egg question in the EV industry. In this market, though, I think the answer is clear — we need both! Cities can do their part not just by procuring electric vehicles but by installing EV charging stations that are free for early adopters to use. At some point, it might make sense to charge people for charging (I understand the risks of offering “free” goods & services), but in these early stages, free charging can go a long way to stimulate more adoption — especially for people who don’t have the option to charge at home.
Several commenters complained about some examples of Nissan LEAF vs gasmobile cost comparisons I recently published because I used an average electricity/charging rate of $0.03/kWh as one of my assumptions. I understand the concern (and have shifted the assumption for later comparisons), but $0.03/kWh is actually three times more than the $0.01/kWh my mom has averaged in over one year of LEAF life thanks to all the free charging in Sarasota, Florida (and not having home charging). Free EV charging can help condo dwellers, renters, and budget-conscious consumers make the jump to electric cars, cars that typically come at higher upfront costs than “comparable” (not that you can actually compare them) gasmobiles.
Aside from the free charging, cities can also offer electric cars free parking — whether at a charging station or not. In cities with high parking fees, this could be a big stimulus. Even in Norway, which has many other EV incentives and the highest EV adoption rate in the world by far, this has been a very important incentive for approximately 1 out of every 4 EV buyers.
2. Carpool/Bus/EV Lanes
Few things push people into more efficient modes of transportation than quicker access to where they want to go. Bus lanes and carpool lanes are a great way to encourage more efficient transportation choices, and opening those up to electric cars is as well.
This solution is not as “extreme” (read: effective) as creating car-free zones, a policy for which I advocated in the first article in this series, but it is also one of the best options on the table for city officials, city planners, and citizen activists who are trying to create more efficient transportation networks.
3. EV Group Buy Partnerships
EV group buys are all the rage. You can get Nissan LEAFs in Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Sonoma County (California), and probably elsewhere for a low price that goes down to almost $11,000. Yes, a new Nissan LEAF for under $12,000! Include gas, oil, and maintenance savings, and the offers are even more amazing. I assume cities (and utilities) around the US and the world could clean up the air a great deal by stimulating thousands of EV purchases through this model.
Working outside government walls for this is another possibility — well, that seems to be the norm, with organizations like Drive Electric Northern Colorado, Smart Charge America, Metropolitan Energy Center, apparently initiating the group buys mentioned above (except the Sonoma County one).
4. EV Workplace Charging Initiative
According to initial research, EV drivers who have home and workplace charging available to them end up charging at one of those places 96–97% of the time. That practically makes public EV charging pointless.
Naturally, for people who don’t have home charging, workplace charging becomes much more valuable. Additionally, this topic (percentage of charging done at work, and its importance to EV buyers) needs to be examined repeatedly among more EV drivers, as new electric car models with longer range come onto the market, and as new segments of the market open up to electric cars. It’s hard to see workplace charging not being a strong stimulus in many a household.
Aside from offering EV workplace charging at government buildings, cities can bring more workplace chargers online simply by acting as a coordinator or cheerleader for the idea. Setting up workplace charging programs and reaching out to employers in the area, cities can bring the EV revolution to a lot more people without spending a dime on physical infrastructure. Additionally, cities could offer incentives to businesses for workplace charging programs/infrastructure.
5. Solar Feed-In Tariffs
Feed-in tariffs seem like a thing of the past. They are basically what got the solar industry darting forward (feed-in tariffs in Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia, and the UK, for example), but they have lost prominence a great deal as conservative politicians have gained more government control and slammed on the breaks — ironically, all in the wake of a massive drop in the cost of solar panels. But something not often discussed is that cities and other jurisdictions can also offer feed-in tariffs.
The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s feed-in tariff is one example of that — though, maybe not a model to copy. There have been a few other feed-in tariffs around the US as well, but not many. By and large, the model has been used in other countries. But that’s not to say American cities can’t create another big wave of success with the model.
6. PACE Financing
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is a model that has been more popular in the US. There is controversy around this system, but the basic deal is that it offers yet another financing option for people. For some people, it is an attractive alternative to typical loans or solar leases, and it is also available in some places where solar leasing isn’t legal.
The Department of Energy summarizes what PACE financing is (emphasis mine):
PACE programs allow local governments, state governments, or other inter-jurisdictional authorities, when authorized by state law, to fund the up-front cost of energy improvements on commercial and residential properties, which are paid back over time by the property owners.
PACE financing for clean energy projects is generally based on an existing structure known as a “land- secured financing district,” often referred to as an assessment district, a local improvement district, or other similar phrase. In a typical assessment district, the local government issues bonds to fund projects with a public purpose such as streetlights, sewer systems, or underground utility lines.
The recent extension of this financing model to energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) allows a property owner to implement improvements without a large up-front cash payment. Property owners voluntarily choose to participate in a PACE program repay their improvement costs over a set time period—typically 10 to 20 years—through property assessments, which are secured by the property itself and paid as an addition to the owners’ property tax bills. Nonpayment generally results in the same set of repercussions as the failure to pay any other portion of a property tax bill.
A PACE assessment is a debt of property, meaning the debt is tied to the property as opposed to the property owner(s), so the repayment obligation may transfer with property ownership, if the buyer agrees to assume the PACE obligation and the new first mortgage holder allows the PACE obligation to remain on the property. This can address a key disincentive to investing in energy improvements, since many property owners are hesitant to make property improvements if they think they may not stay in the property long enough for the resulting savings to cover the upfront costs.
7. 100% Energy Freedom (or 100% Renewable Energy) Targets
Whether you want to call it a 100% renewable electricity (or energy) target or a 100% energy freedom target, I think this is one of the easiest suggestions a city can implement. Who doesn’t support the idea of one day getting all of your city’s energy from clean, renewable, domestic resources? Unless someone’s finances are directly threatened by a move away from dirty, polluting, fossil energy, I can’t think of a reason to oppose this — and even then, I think it’s cowardly and immoral to oppose 100% energy freedom / 100% renewable energy.
Republicans and Democrats alike (as well as independents and people of all political parties around the world) support clean energy. Championing a 100% energy freedom / 100% renewable energy initiative seems like one of the easier ways for a city councilor or mayor to get a reputation boost in the public eye.
Of course, setting such targets leads to plans for how to achieve them, a clear signal to investors and businesses, and various practical methods for achieving the target.
8. Renewable Energy Procurement
Very simply, cities can decide to buy their electricity from renewable energy sources.
Naturally, this is a good supplement to the EV procurement I recommended in the first article in this series. 😀
Aside from cities doing this, so can schools, organizations, churches, companies, and individuals. As one of several avenues forward in that regard, Arcadia Power now offers community solar for anyone in the US with an electric bill.
9. Focused City Marketing
This is another simple one — and a soft one — but I think it’s potentially much more powerful than we tend to assume. For years, I’ve been saying that the biggest hurdle to much wider solar and EV adoption is no longer technical — it is lack of awareness and lack of experience.
City governments have a tremendous amount of influence and have many partnerships that could be leveraged and influenced in order to communicate to businesses and the public that electric cars are better and often cheaper, and rooftop solar is often cheaper than retail electricity.
I’m not just talking about low-quality public service announcements either. I’m talking about marketing campaigns that are legitimately persuasive and professional. And I’m talking about using the city’s many microphones and partnerships to broadly and passionately encourage EV and solar adoption.
10. Cleantech Revolution Conferences
Naturally, as part of #9 or somewhat related to it, I think it’s a good idea for cities to partner with CleanTechnica to bring the Cleantech Revolution Tour to their communities.
After 3 highly successful cleantech conferences, we have several invitations (and partnerships developing) to host conferences in other Polish cities, Slovakia, Hungary, Kiev (Ukraine), and in Berlin again. The next conference could very well be co-hosted by a Polish city.
This suggestion isn’t just for European cities, of course. The plan has always been to bring the tour to the US as well, and other regions if all goes well.
Have a look at my summary article about our last conference (several pics below) here: Cleantech Revolution Sprouting In Poland — Seriously.
- Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica
- Institute of Transport Economics
- elbil forening
- Smart Charge America
- Idaho National Laboratory
- Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Department of Energy
- Public Opinion Strategies
- The Solutions Project
- 10:10 Solar Schools
- 350.org & Marcacci Communications
- Cleantech Revolution Tour | CleanTechnica | GridHub