GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids has improved its national energy ranking. It now is ranked 31st – moving up from 33rd last year and 38th in 2019 in the American Council on an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) City Clean Energy Scorecard.
ACEEE annually ranks 100 major U.S. cities on their efforts to reduce energy waste in homes and buildings and moving toward a cleaner power grid – and doing so equitably. Cities earn points for requiring large buildings to reduce energy waste, subsidizing access to transit and other efficient transportation options for historically marginalized groups, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Alison Waske Sutter, sustainability and performance management officer for the City of Grand Rapids, said the City’s ranking, “...is impressive considering the Grand Rapids-Kentwood metropolitan statistical area is the 52nd largest area evaluated. And with the work that the City is currently focusing on, we feel confident we will continue to move up in the rankings.”
This was the sixth edition of the ranking and the first year the transportation sector was included. The Scorecard promoted the City’s accomplishments among ACEEE’s five policy areas through July 1, 2021:
- Community-wide initiatives: urban tree canopy goal of 40%
- Building policies: allows solar energy use in all zones; equitable approach to targeting energy reduction in existing buildings through its Housing Rehabilitation Programs; runs a 2030 District and offers PACE financing
- Transportation policies: 12.3% of low-income households have access to high-quality transit
- Energy and water utilities: DTE Energy shows high savings and Consumers Energy shows moderate savings as a percentage of sales for efficiency programs; both utilities offer a portfolio of energy efficiency programs, with some specifically for low-income customers and multifamily properties; the City advocates for increased energy efficiency and renewable energy with the Michigan Public Service Commission; City’s water and sewer utilities scored very high in efficiency efforts in water services
- Local government operations: the City has a greenhouse gas reduction goal for local government operations; the City’s fleet is made up of 12.2% efficient vehicles; uses LEDs in outdoor lighting and is beginning to convert streetlights citywide to LEDs; installed a small amount of solar on City facilities and strategically implements energy efficiency upgrades through asset management
The Scorecard also evaluated equity-driven climate action and clean energy planning, implementation, and evaluation scores with 2.5 being the maximum points. Grand Rapids earned 0.5 points. Seattle was the only city to earn all 2.5 points, 5 cities earned 2 points, 4 earned 1.5 points, 17 earned 1 point and 18 earned 0.5 points.
“While we are outpacing some of the larger cities listed, Grand Rapids isn’t satisfied with status quo and is well positioned to continue improving our clean energy score,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “We will continue to focus on reducing municipal energy and carbon, sourcing renewable energy and supporting carbon reduction efforts across the city. Working with our departments and partners across the city will help us continue to improve our overall score.”
While 63 cities have adopted community-wide climate goals, ACEEE indicated only 38 have released sufficient data to assess their progress, and of those, only 19 are on track to achieve their goals. Waske Sutter reported that City of Grand Rapids reduced municipal metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (also referred to as a carbon or greenhouse gas emissions footprint) by 30% in 2020 and expects to reach 47% by 2025 as compared to 2008. This reduction includes all energy consumed by City facilities, utilities (water, sewer and street lighting) and fleet (800 vehicles including police, fire, street sweepers and refuse trucks).
Based on the City’s Office of Sustainability’s research of publicly reported data, Grand Rapids is the third best performer on the carbon reduction measure next to Austin and Minneapolis. City Manager Mark Washington approved an 85% reduction of municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and set a net zero goal by 2040 in September of last year. The City’s goal greatly exceeds Paris Climate Accord targets as well as those established by President Biden and Governor Whitmer (52% by 2030 and net zero by 2050).
The City is committed to engaging stakeholders about whether it should pass a communitywide carbon emissions goal on behalf of the entire community. It anticipates making a decision by September. While the City has different policy and programmatic levers, its authority is limited in scope and achieving net zero carbon emissions across our community will take many partners working collaboratively and holding each other accountable for performance.
When looking ahead to ACEEE’s 2022 scorecard, the City will be able to report on the following work that has been taking place during FY 22. Sutter feels that this continued work will help the City move up in the rankings:
- Equitable, Healthy and Zero Carbon Buildings Initiative (E.H.Zero) launched last fall in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan and the Urban Core Collective with the intention of co-creating policies and programs for buildings and homes to equitably reduce carbon emissions (a virtual launch event for small and large commercial buildings stakeholders, including multifamily residential properties, will be held on Thursday, February 24 from 9 – 11 a.m.; check out the Housing Partner Organization RFP just released on the E.H.Zero web site)
- City continues to participate in and support the Community Collaboration on Climate Change (C4)
- City passed a municipal carbon reduction goal and is evaluating whether to create a communitywide carbon goal
- City will complete a communitywide carbon emissions inventory and begin work on a climate vulnerability assessment
- City builds a large solar array (near 1 megawatt behind-the-meter ground mounted) and continues to work on building a very large solar array (approximately 15 megawatts) a closed landfill