Chicago Aims to Power City-Owned Buildings With Renewable Energy

Through a new RFP, Chicago advances in its commitment to ensuring all city-owned buildings and operations are powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.
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Chicago’s Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is embarking the city on a new sustainable initiative, which could spur similar action from neighboring municipalities. In September, the official, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS), initiated a new request for proposals to procure a renewable energy supply contract for city-owned buildings.

The measure is aimed at stabilizing municipal energy costs, stimulate the local green economy, create high-quality green jobs, improve air quality and environmental impacts across the region, and overall reinforce Chicago’s commitment to addressing climate change. The city will announce the selected vendor in early 2021.

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The contract is part of Chicago’s commitment to ensuring all city-owned buildings and operations are powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 and transitioning the entire city to renewable energy by 2035. As such, the initiative is being prepared well in advance as the contract is slated to begin in 2022, with a five-year duration. It targets supplying all city-owned buildings, streetlights and other facilities with reliable, renewable electricity and has a cost of $40 million annually, which amounts to $200 million for the vendor.

Green is the way

With the cost of renewable energy dropping considerably in recent years, switching to clean energy could provide Chicago with energy savings in the long run. In addition, it can also cut pollution and ultimately lead to positive public health benefits. Reliability and resilience could also receive a boost by adopting renewable energy sourcing—with solar energy peaking during the day and wind at night, Chicago could resolve power generation intermittency by using a blend of the two sources.

To reach the 2025 commitments, AIS purchased 95,000 Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from Midwestern wind farms. The initial REC purchase secures renewable energy supply for some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings, including City Hall, the Chicago Cultural Center and Harold Washington Library for all the electricity these used in 2019. The purchase covers nearly 180 facilities citywide, including libraries and fire stations in many neighborhoods.

Chicago has taken a series of actions to reduce the carbon footprint of its built environment—in 2018, the city was awarded the LEED for Cities Platinum certification, U.S. Green Building Council’s highest program level.