Evanston energy

Posted on November, 04 2015

Renewable power to the people

Renewable power to the people

Since 2012 the City of Evanston, USA, has provided residents and small businesses with 100% green electricity through its community choice electricity aggregation program. It is now on track to reduce emissions by 20% by 2016 from a 2005 baseline and plans an off-shore wind farm. Evanston was chosen as the US Earth Hour National Capital of 2015 and an important factor in its success is the activism of its local environmental organization, Citizens´ Greener Evanston.

Evanston was awarded the title Global Earth Hour Capital in Earth Hour City Challenge 2015
Keywords: electricity aggregation, renewables, wind power, Citizens´ Greener Evanston, climate

Evanston is a small town that has made big headlines on sustainability. It 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 Electric Aggregation program (see also San Francisco). This means that the city aggregates residential and small business electric accounts to collectively seek bids for an energy supplier. Those who do not wish to participate need to actively opt out of the program.

Leading in green electricity

Spurred on by Citizens´ Greener Evanston, the City Council also selected a supplier providing a 100% renewable energy mix. In a few months, Evanston had halved emissions from electricity in the residential sector while the government´s own operations were now run on 100% green electricity, including 25 kilowatt solar panels on the roof of the Evanston Water Treatment Facility (see also Vancouver). Evanston was catapulted to the top lists of the US Environmental Protection Agency´s (EPA) Green Power Partnerships. In 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 Michigan (see also Copenhagen). 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 in its 2008 Climate Action Program. In 2014, once again spurred on by Citizens´ Greener Evanston, Evanston took the next step in its new Evanston Livability Plan, which set the goal of a 20% reduction in GHG emissions by 2016 from a 2005 baseline.

Evanston Livability Plan

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 buildings, 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. These are continuing to be developed under the Evanston Livability Plan, with a special focus on green power, building retrofits, transports and obtaining emissions reductions by the city’s seven largest employers, who work collaboratively on sustainability initiatives as the Evanston Green Ribbon Committee. To raise its percentage of green power usage even further in the community, Evanston is developing and implementing a green power program for medium-sized businesses that are too large for the community aggregation program but too small to have leverage in contracting a lower-cost electricity supply.

Citizens´ Greener Evanston

Citizens´ Greener Evanston has been key to the success of Evanston´s sustainability efforts, rallying the community behind its goals and gathering support from a large number of groups and organizations. It grew out of the Network for Evanston's Future, an umbrella group started in 2000 and working on various aspects of sustainability. After Evanston signed the United States Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2006, the group started to work on a plan to reduce the city´s carbon footprint, which became the Evanston Climate Action Plan, passed in 2008 (see also Calgary). In 2010, the group incorporated as Citizens' Greener Evanston and continued to work with the City, schools, institutions, businesses and other NGOs, introducing the ideas of electricity aggregation and an off-shore wind farm, as well as pushing for the Evanston Livability Plan. 

The active community showed its clout in WWFs We Love Cities campaign with a total of 14,365 votes, the fourth largest vote total and the second highest number of votes per capita, trailing only 2015 winner Balikpapan, Indonesia.



City of Evanston, “Sustainability”, http://cityofevanston.org/sustainability/

City of Evanston, “Evanston Climate Action Plan”, http://www.cityofevanston.org/pdf/ECAP.pdf
City of Evanston, “Evanston Livability Plan”, http://carbonn.org/uploads/tx_carbonndata/EvanstonLivabilityPlan.pdf
EPA, “Green Power Communities”, http://www3.epa.gov/greenpower/communities/index.htm
Citizens´ Greener Evanston, http://www.greenerevanston.org/
Evanston Green Buzz, http://evanstongreenbuzz.org/
carbonn Climate Registry, City Climate Report: City of Evanston, http://carbonn.org/data/report/commitments/?tx_datareport_pi1%5Buid%5D=284

Text by: Martin Jacobson

Evanston Lakefront with Chicago in the background
© City of Evanston
Map - Evanston Energy (Urban solutions)
Evanston’s 25 kW solar panel on the water treatment plant
© City of Evanston