A small city of 30,000 people will become the first in the U.S to cut its carbon emissions.
In early November, Ithaca, New York, voted to decarbonize 100% of its buildings by 2030. Decarbonization involves replacing energy sources that use fossil fuels with renewable sources to power the city.
This is an ambitious plan, especially when the world hopes to reach zero carbon emissions only by 2050. How does Ithaca plan to achieve this target?
In the U.S, about 40% of the energy is consumed by buildings, whether residential, commercial, schools, or hotels. This energy is used for lighting, heating, cooling, and for running appliances.
Ithaca plans to have homeowners replace their gas stoves with electric stoves, and gas furnaces with heat pumps. Building codes will be updated requiring homeowners to improve insulation as well as use efficient lighting.
The local electric grid in Ithaca is already 80% carbon-free, and implementing rooftop solar power will bring the reduction to 100%. Transportation, which makes up the other 40% of the emissions in Ithaca, will be the next step. The city has plans to create a program to get used electric vehicles to low-income people.
The city will be working with a Brooklyn-based startup called BlocPower to decarbonize the city. To encourage people to participate in the program, they will arrange for discounted purchase of electric stoves and heat pumps. BlocPower will also make these green updates affordable by providing loans that can be offset by the savings for owners who will now be using less energy.
There will be challenges that the city will need to plan for. If more homeowners move forward with electrification, the city's electrical grid will need to be updated. When people upgrade their homes, the property taxes will go up which affects homeowners.
As Ithaca works through all these issues, it could become a model for the other cities looking to decarbonize.
Sources: Washington Post, Forbes, Guardian, FastCompany