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Fewer than 25% of Local Governments Use Alternative Energy, Says Report

Fewer than a quarter of US local governments employ any form of alternative energy generation, according to survey results.

Just 23.4 percent of the more than 2,100 local governments surveyed for Breaking New Ground: Promoting Environmental and Energy Programs in Local Government reported using any kind of renewable or alternative energy production.

The study was carried out by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and James H. Svara, professor at the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University.

It argues that while many communities recognize the importance of environmental awareness and energy efficiency, most local governments were still at the early stages of adopting a full range of measured sustainability activities. The report offers five major findings:

1. There is considerable variation in the extent to which sustainability actions have been implemented by local governments. More than 80 percent of local governments report recycling (90 percent), improving transportation (81.7 percent), and reducing building energy use (80.6 percent). In contrast, efforts to reduce energy use by altering work schedules or processes have been adopted by fewer than two governments in five (36.2 percent).

2.  There is no fix-all panacea for sustainability. No single approach to sustainability is right for every community, even when the government is actively committed. Framing the issues requires sensitivity to the concerns and motivators of a specific locality, according to the survey.

3. Goal setting and progress measurement are important for all communities. Whether a large city or a small town, communities need to establish goals and targets and measure progress in a quantitative manner through baseline studies, the analysis says.

4. A few local governments are leading sustainability initiatives. Many governments have at least begun to get involved in sustainability. Meanwhile, the number of pioneers and early adopters is about what the researchers expected to find, according to the report.

5. Policy priorities matter to sustainability initiatives. Communities that assigned a high priority to green jobs or climate change, for example, reported the strongest association with action in that area.

“Building a sustainable community requires contributions from all levels of government, all sectors of the economy, and all of the citizenry,” Svara says. “This report demonstrates that there’s work to do and offers a blueprint for how to begin doing it.”

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2 thoughts on “Fewer than 25% of Local Governments Use Alternative Energy, Says Report

  1. Interesting study but lacking in an understanding of the local government’s actual source carbon content and degree of locally derived alternative energy already included in the utility provided source energy.

    When numerous local governments are already receiving 25 to 95% ‘clean’ energy there is no need to go off and carelessly spend taxpayers’ dollars on renewable energy systems that will have little to no impact on net carbon emissions.

    Rather than lead with how many local governments have a renewable energy program/commitment it would be far better to start the process by evaluating how many local governments understand their source energy composition. Then continue to survey those whose source energy is less than 10% renewable: inclusive of solar, wind, hydro, tidal, and bio-mass and/or clean (nuclear or geo-thermal) energy based to determine if they have plans to add supplemental renewable energy systems to bring their source energy composition to 20 or perhaps even 33% (California standard).

    Let’s invest in deploying renewable energy systems where they provide the best societal benefit for the buck. Adding solar power to a local civic hall that is already powered by a hydro-sourced utility is a giant waste of tax dollars, resources, time and materials that could be better used in another application or region.

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