San Francisco Becomes First US City to Make Big Buildings Go Green

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – To help meet its goal of going carbon neutral by 2050, San Francisco on Tuesday became the first U.S. city to make large commercial buildings get 100% of their power from renewable energy sources.

Under the phased-in plan, nonresidential buildings over 50,000 square feet must rely solely on zero-emissions power by 2030.

“We need to use less energy and we need a cleaner renewable energy supply,” San Francisco Supervisor Vallie Brown, who co-sponsored the legislation with Mayor London Breed, said at a city meeting Tuesday.

According to 2017 data, buildings are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco, second only to vehicles. Buildings accounted for 44% of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to transportation, which produced 46% of emissions.

“We’re right to think cars, but we also have to think buildings,” Brown said.

The ordinance, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, will affect approximately 647 buildings in San Francisco over the next 11 years.

The ordinance rolls out zero-emissions electricity standards in three phases. In phase 1, approximately 63 nonresidential buildings over 500,000 square feet must go carbon-neutral by 2022. In phase 2, about 113 commercial buildings over 250,000 square feet must achieve the same feat by 2024. For phase 3, a larger swath of 471 commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet must rely solely on nonpolluting power sources by 2030.

The ordinance will affect 9% of San Francisco’s commercial buildings, which consume 73% of the city’s electricity and account for 156,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, according to data from the city’s Department of the Environment.

First unveiled by city officials on Earth Day this past April, the plan is viewed as essential in helping San Francisco achieve its goal of using only renewable power citywide by 2030 and going carbon neutral by 2050.

“San Francisco has always been a national leader when it comes to sustainability, but we know that the reality of climate change requires us to go further,” Breed said when announcing the plan in April. “Transitioning our large buildings to 100% renewable energy is an important step to continuing the progress we have made with CleanPowerSF towards making San Francisco an even more sustainable city.”

San Francisco was ranked as one of the top five cities for clean energy in July 2019 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit that promotes efficient energy policies.

The ordinance approved Tuesday will require one more vote by the Board of Supervisors and the mayor’s signature before it becomes law.

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