Referrendum on electricity
Evanston is a suburban community of 75,000 people north of Chicago, mainly known as the home to Northwestern University. In 2012 Evanston held a referendum where 73% of the voters authorized the City Council to set up an opt-out Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program. This means that the city aggregates residential and small business electric accounts to collectively seek bids for an energy supplier.
Spurred by the work of the local NGO, Citizens’ Greener Evanston, the City Council also selected a supplier to provide a 100% renewable energy mix. In a few months, Evanston had halved emissions from electricity in the resi-dential sector while the government’s own operations were now run on 100% green electricity, including from 25-kilowatt solar panels on the roof of the Evanston Water Treatment Facility. Evanston was catapulted to the top lists of the US Environmental Pro-tection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnerships.
US green electricity leader
By 2015 Evanston’s City Government was the 19th largest green power user among local governments in the US. On the EPA’s Green Power Community rankings, comparing the green electricity usage of whole communities, Evanston ranked 7th in absolute numbers despite its small size, and 6th in percentage of green power usage, which in Evanston’s case was 29%.
Evanston has continued to purchase 100% green electricity, and has also developed plans for an offshore wind farm in Lake Michi-gan. The aggregation program not only saved participating households money – by 2013 it also helped the city reach its goal of a 13% reduction of community-wide GHG emissions from a 2005 baseline, as set out in its 2008 Climate Action Program.
Although the aggregation program was the biggest factor in reducing emissions, it is only one of many actions across the field of sustainability taken by Evanston, including: a low-income weatherization program, and other energy efficiency projects for build-ings; a new green building ordinance; charging stations for electric cars; biking programs; a new transport plan, waste programs; a farmers’ market, and several outreach programs to residents and businesses.
Evanston Livability Plan
These are continuing to be developed under the Evanston Livability Plan, with a special focus on green power, building retrofits, transport, and obtaining emissions reductions by the city’s seven largest employers, who work collaboratively on sustainability initiatives through the Evanston Green Ribbon Com-mittee.
Evanston’s ambitions and innovations in the area of transport are being noticed at the regional and national level – and are them-selves a result of learnings from the global level. The car-free centre, and Evanston’s focus on so-called Transit-Oriented Devel-opment (TOD) are picking up attention in Washington and in Chicago. TOD in turn was inspired by earlier achievements in putting the citizen and urban quality at the centre of transport plans, in Curitiba, Brazil.
Text by: Martin Jacobson
Last edited: 2017-03-15