The Obama administration is pushing power plant regulations to reduce carbon emissions and most states have some sort of renewable energy policy. But there's plenty of opportunity left for action at the local level; action that can also boost the local economy.
The following presentation by ILSR’s Director of Democratic Energy John Farrell to the Northfield Climate Summit on January 18, 2014, illustrates what one small Minnesota town has done, what other steps it can take as part of the state’s GreenStep Cities program, and model local climate actions from around the United States.
What One Small Town Has Done
Northfield, MN, is a small town promoting "cows, colleges, and contentment" 45 minutes south of Minneapolis, MN. The city differs from other small towns in that it hosts two private liberal arts colleges, and it has a core of local activity around local renewable energy and climate change. Thus far, the city has adopted zoning regulations to encourage low-carbon development, invested in transit, and led a buy local campaign. All these steps are encouraged by a state-based program called GreenStep Cities, which provides technical assistance to cities looking to reduce their environmental impact.
What More Can a Town Do?
The state program has several prominent "steps" that Northfield and other cities can use to reduce their energy consumption and increase capture of local energy dollars. This includes benchmarking and retrofitting public buildings for lower energy use or on-site energy production. Such ordinances can also apply to commercial and residential buildings, saving tenants and homeowners money for many years. City installation of LED traffic signals is a investment that pays back in 2-3 years for many cities. The city can also streamline permitting and other local regulations governing local energy production, smoothing the path for city residents to make their own investments.
The city also generated a remarkable list of other potential actions from an energy task force that organized and met regularly several years ago. It's investigation included local actions such as:
What Else Has Been Done?
Even with its extensive local research into local climate solutions, there are several strategies implemented around the country that Northfield and other cities can look to:
Photo credit: Mike Gifford
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