We need 100% renewable energy to get to zero carbon

We're continuing to push for 100% renewable energy commitments from cities, colleges, and universities. They have an important opportunity to help us get to zero carbon emissions, and they need to show that leadership.

Nathan Murphy

One of the issues we’ve pushed for years is getting colleges and universities, local governments, and even entire states to commit to 100% renewable energy. We know that’s a critical piece of the puzzle to get to zero carbon emissions by mid century to avoid the worst effects of climate change. In short, make all electricity carbon free, and electrify everything. The first step is getting our energy sector to 100% renewable energy like wind and solar.

In Michigan, Gov. Whitmer planted a flag at 100% carbon neutrality by 2050. This puts us in the top ten states doing something about climate change. That’s a much bigger goal than 100% renewable energy because it includes things like the transportation sector and buildings. Where does 100% renewables fit into this? Simple, it’s a critical first step. 

The Michigan energy experts I talk to tell me if we’re going to meet the interim goal of a 26-28% reduction below 2005 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 we need to make significant strides in the energy sector. It’s the place where we can get the most bang for the buck now, and it needs to lead other sectors. Transportation relies on automotive turnover as cars and trucks reach the end of their usage and are replaced. This timeline is 15-20 years depending on the vehicle. Building sector progress relies on retrofits that also typically happen on long time scales. The energy sector can move more quickly, and Michigan is already shutting down dirty, expensive coal plants and replacing them with renewables. 

As I said, make electricity renewable and electrify everything. We don’t get to zero carbon unless our energy sector is zero carbon. That’s one of the reasons we continue to push for 100% renewable energy commitments. 

That’s also one of the reasons we love to see cities making real progress towards the 100% renewables goal. Cities as different as Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City are moving forward with renewable energy build outs. Just recently, Grand Rapids approved building a new solar array creating an important step towards getting the city government to 100%. 

These types of seemingly small, local steps are critical in the fight for a livable planet. They make a huge difference by paving the way for more renewables. And while some Michigan cities are demonstrating real leadership too many are sitting on the sidelines. Kudos to Grand Rapids and other leaders. It’s long past time for other cities (and colleges and universities) to do what’s right.


Nathan Murphy