Top Ten U.S. Cities Ranked by Use of Renewable Energy

A newly released study conducted by SustainLane Government concludes that Oakland, California, generates the highest percentage of renewable energy out of all U.S. cities, producing 5 percent more energy than any other city surveyed.

Leading the nation with 17 percent of its electricity produced by sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, most renewable energy generation in the city comes from commercial and residential photovoltaic (PV) systems. According to City of Oakland Energy Engineer Scott Wentworth, the city is undertaking many important projects including: working with San Francisco State University, Marin County, and the City and County of San Francisco to create tools for assessing solar potential of commercial and residential properties; conducting wave and tidal power studies in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute and other California cities; and outfitting new municipal buildings to accommodate solar systems — even if the resources are not available to install the system immediately. Oakland has strongly supported solar energy and encouraged citizens to do the same, said Wentworth. “We are excited that SustainLane Governments figures show that we are achieving positive results. The results that are happening in Oakland are derived from increasingly effective collaboration between government agencies, utilities, for-profit businesses and non-governmental organizations,” he said. Wentworth noted that Oakland works with other California cities like San Francisco and Marin to learn from one another and develop stronger renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose all tied for second place with 12 percent of their energy coming from renewable energy sources.

Percentage of Power from Renewable Energy


Oakland, CA



Sacramento/San Francisco/San Jose, CA



Portland, OR



Boston, MA



San Diego, CA



Austin, TX



Los Angeles, CA



Minneapolis, MN



Seattle, WA



Chicago, Il


Source: SustainLane U.S. City Rankings data 2006/2007

“The San Francisco Bay Area is one of several places in the nation where there is a very active and very constructive dialogue about renewable energy, backed up by a public and private will to invest in real projects,” Wentworth added. In 2004, SustainLane Government reports, more than one-third of greenhouse gases produced in the U.S. came from electricity production, making it a leading polluter in areas such as transportation (27.9 percent), industry (19.6 percent), and agriculture (7 percent). The more renewable energy a city generates, the better equipped it will be for costly environmental regulations in the future. For example, if the greenhouse gases that cause climate change get taxed, cities with strong renewable energy programs could save a lot of money and their economies could gain a tax advantage. That puts Oakland and other top cities in a good position when such regulations arise. Another economic benefit of implementing renewable energy technologies is the creation of regional jobs. As cities generate more power locally, many more direct and indirect jobs will spawn as a result. Domestic energy production also limits the importation of energy from other nations, reducing security risks. Four of the top five cities in the report are located in California. California cities rank higher in general because of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which set minimal requirements in 2002 for utility purchases of renewable energy for the state’s electric grid. The RPS requires a 20 percent renewable energy total for the state’s utilities by 2020. “Results in Oakland are built on the substantial foundation of renewable energy created by California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard,” said Wentworth. In addition to state portfolio standards, some U.S. cities have set goals for increasing renewable energy, ranging from Chicago’s 20 percent goal by 2010, to Portland, Oregon’s goal of obtaining 100 percent renewable energy by 2010. Other cities, such as Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon have leading residential and business green choice programs as part of city-owned utility service offerings. As communities worry about the economic and environmental impacts of climate change, many cities and towns are implementing their own renewable energy programs instead of waiting for the federal government to act.
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