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City of Cleveland commits to solar panels, electric vehicle stations for clean energy conversion

Posted at 12:00 PM, Apr 09, 2021

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland is announcing a new set of commitments with the goal of using 100 percent clean energy by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

City of Cleveland Chief of Sustainability Jason Wood tells News 5 the other projects on the "supply side" of energy reduction, like Cleveland Public Power working to receive 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.

This report, says Wood, focuses much more on the "demand side" of the energy equation: refining how we use energy so we use less of it and use it better.

“If you want to talk about the cleanest source of energy you can use, it’s the energy you don’t use," said Wood. "If I’m not using that kilowatt hour, that’s the cleanest one there is.”

The Commitments

Some of the steps have already been completed, like hiring a full-time energy manager, installing LED streetlights and traffic signals, and tracking, publishing and reviewing city energy usage and emissions information.

This new report shows that the city is also replacing lighting structures in some city buildings to improve energy efficiency, claiming those changes have already, “resulted in significant energy savings and generated updated specifications for ongoing facility lighting upgrades.”

Wood points out that the city can model behavior in it's own buildings, but that reaching the larger goals by 2050 will rely on creating partnerships with other groups and communities and supporting private energy-saving projects.

“We have to act now because every day we wait is a day that it gets harder to advance this," said Wood.

To create more clean energy, the city says it has “obtained bids to install solar photovoltaic panels at select City facilities.” The project is starting with 15 buildings and legislation is pending with Cleveland’s City Council. Part of that solar panel project would also be creating ways to store energy that is gathered.

For residents, the city commits to creating a low-and-moderate-income solar funding model to help cover the costs for residents who want to install solar panels. It cites the success of Cuyahoga County’s Solar Co-op in driving solar installations outside the city. The city’s plan would be focused on lowering the barrier to entry on similar investments within city limits.

Those projects aren't cheap and would take years, if not decades, to implement, but Wood says it's worth it in the long run.

“The report models out about $3.6 billion in cumulative benefits between now and 2050 and about $2.1 billion in cumulative costs," said Wood. "So it is benefit-positive by about $1.5 billion. So yes programs have cost but we’ll see this translate into lower energy bills for residents, lower healthcare bills from deferred health incidents.”

Transportation in Cleveland could look very different when some of the commitments from the city are realized. The report says the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is working with Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) to create more charging locations for electric vehicles. The city is already looking at the lots at Westside Market, Willard Garage, the new Ward 1 Recreation. Center, and the Airport Red Lot.

Cleveland is also committing to purchasing electric vehicles for its “light-duty” fleet of municipal vehicles like cars and pick-up trucks.

The city is also looking to increase access to alternative modes of transportation and public transit to make it easier for more people to use cars less.

The Benefits

“How do we bring more generation local, how do we increase energy efficiency and how do we do all of this in a way that keeps equity at the forefront of our decision-making process," said Wood.

That's why Wood says the City is looking to partner with organizations that can help implement these steps in communities all over Cleveland.

News 5 Cleveland has reported on the GO Green Solar Energy project that is trying to bring solar energy to the Hough neighborhood.

The hope is that these kinds of investments would help residents in neighborhoods where residents pay more than the national average for utilities. Wood says the national average is for Americans to spend about 3.6% of the household income on electric and gas bills. He says there are about 100,000 homes in parts of Cleveland that are paying more than 6% to cover those costs.

Steps like installing solar technology (as long as there is help paying the initial price of installation) can help offset some of those costs.

“So that this really important technology that has all kinds of health benefits, emissions reductions benefits, will eventually lower your electric bill, we can make that more accessible to lower to moderate-income residents," said Wood.

Tree-planting initiatives have already helped mitigate the heat that rises off of asphalt during warmer months in disadvantaged communities, making them more pleasant to live in. Wood hopes that as green energy infrastructure expands, it also brings more jobs that could bring better wages and opportunities to residents regardless of their education or experience.

“We spend a lot of time in our climate planning process talking about good, clean jobs, that’s what these are," said Wood.

The study and planned actions are the next step after the City of Cleveland’s Climate Action Plan and lay out how the city, businesses, and residents can contribute to reaching the goal by 2050. The information and study was assembled by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Cleveland Foundation, Cray Consulting Group, The George Gund Foundation, the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, and Greenlink Analytics.

Various pieces of the report are subject to Cleveland City Council approval before they could be implemented.

View a PDF of the complete study report here.

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