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BART Speeds Toward Zero-Carbon Future

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system, called BART for short, is moving rapidly – even “aggressively,” the transit agency said in a May 1 statement – toward a zero-carbon, 100 percent renewable energy future.

Not only will commuters in the City on the Bay save fossil fuels just by taking public transportation, but the system they are traveling on soon will be adopting greener guidelines than ever before.

“Every day, BART takes cars off the road and helps drive down our greenhouse gas emissions,” said BART Director Nick Josefowitz. “But especially now, BART and the Bay Area must shoulder even more responsibility to combat climate change. Even though BART is not required to comply with the state’s renewable energy standards, we have committed to purchasing 100% renewable electricity and taking a leadership role in decarbonizing our transportation sector.”

In April, the transit system’s Board of Directors has approved a new Wholesale Electricity Portfolio Policy that will guide future energy purchases, stating, “ART is one of the largest consumers of electric power in Northern California, using about 400,000 mWh hours of electricity annually. This is about as much as the City of Alameda uses each year. The composition of BART’s power portfolio impacts the greenhouse gas footprint of everyone who relies upon BART. By adopting the Wholesale Electricity Portfolio Policy, BART is strengthening the region’s commitment to sustainability.”

Under the new policy the transit system has pledged to:

  • Advance smart land use, livable neighborhoods and sustainable access to transit.
  • Choose sustainable materials, construction methods, and operations practices.
  • Use energy, water, and other resources efficiently.
  • Reduce harmful emissions and waste generation.
  • Respond to risks from extreme weather, earthquakes, and other potential disruptions.
  • Improve patron and employee health and experience.
  • Serve as a leader in sustainability for transit agencies and the communities that BART serves.

As a result, BART envisions that its energy portfolio will:

  • Have an average emission factor no greater than 100 lbs-CO2e/MWh during the period 2017 through 2024 (inclusive);
  • Will be at least 50 percent from Eligible Renewable sources and from at least 90 percent from low and zero carbon sources by 2025;
  • Will be 100 percent from zero carbon sources by 2035; and
  • Will be 100 percent from Eligible Renewable sources by 2045.

Most transit agencies have to buy power from their local provider.  But thanks to state legislation approved most recently in 2015, BART has wide latitude in choosing its power sources. The District has built its own electricity portfolio while still receiving delivery services from regional utility PG&E.

Indeed, BART claims that its current portfolio already is 78 percent cleaner in terms of carbon content compared with other typical large customers of PG&E. However, the transit system stated, “The District wants to get more of its power from renewable sources such as solar, wind and small hydroelectric facilities”.  BART said its costs are also 18 percent lower compared with large PG&E customers.

Those goals would put BART on track to exceed the current state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard of 50 percent by 2030.  The District also plans to maintain long-term cost advantages compared to rates that BART would otherwise pay as a bundled utility customer.

“Given that renewable energy supply costs have fallen significantly in recent years and have approached cost parity with other supply sources, BART has an opportunity to set clean energy goals that are both ambitious and realistic,” said BART’s Sustainability Manager Holly Gordon.

BART plans to put out a request for proposals from renewable power providers within the next few weeks.

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