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Where's the carbon? Cleveland rolls out Climate Action Plan

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/12/13 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

Cities are on the front lines of climate change. As more people congregate (and more concrete is poured for things like big roads) city/suburb become hot spots for climate events like the heat waves which killed 700 in Chicago and tens of thousands on the European continent in the mid-nineties.

Taking action<br />Cleveland Climate Action Plan (draft, 2013) outlines what the city can do to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.Symbol for wind<br />The wind turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center has introduced many Clevelanders to the potential of wind power.Solar power for a green building<br />The solar array on the roof of the Cleveland Environmental Center has been generating clean power since 2003.Integrating solar<br />The canopy at the entrance of the Great Lake Science Center combines function and power generation with a 31.2 kilowatt solar array.SmartHome<br />The PNC SmartHome project of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History showed that conservation and efficiency are the first steps toward a clean energy future.Amplifying wind<br />A prototype helix wind turbine that amplifies wind speed for greater power generation is being tested at Cleveland's Progressive Field. The technology was developed at Cleveland State University. (Photo by Cleveland State University)Cleveland innovation<br />Cleveland has a heritage of energy innovation, including one of the world's first wind turbines to generate electricity. It was built in the 1880s by inventor Charles Brush at his Euclid Avenue mansion.
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But, cities also aggregate intelligence. They are the best hope in cracking the code to slowing the release of carbon and absorbing impacts from more frequent heat waves and floods.

Cleveland’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), put forth by Mayor Jackson and his Sustainability Chief Jenita McGowan this week, starts with a measure of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions then sets big goals for carbon reductions, and identifies high value ‘mitigate and adapt‘ strategies. In many respects, it rethinks and reorders the resources the city is prepared to spend anyway.

Now that it has pinpointed the sources of greenhouse gases, the city promises to find reductions through clean energy, making buildings more efficient, re-imagining vacant land and reshaping land-use and streets to encourage lower-carbon lifestyles. The city's goal is to reduce carbon 20% by 2020, 50% by 2050 and 90% by the end of the century.

Internally, it has already made strides: “We have undertaken upgrades in 69 of our municipal buildings, saving more than $1 million dollars annually,” McGowan told Eco Watch this week.

The biggest opportunity is improving industry—which the CAP found produces 36% of all emissions (half of that from one source: the blast furnace at Arcelor-Mittal Steel). Cleveland will need to be visionary and it needs partners if it hopes to tackle that number.

The CAP is a work in progress, McGowan says, adding that the city is looking for "shared leadership."

To that we add, can the city move the dial on industrial energy use without broad state support or a utility willing to figure out how big industry can squeeze all the potential out of that 36 percent?

Co-generation, an accepted practice of harvesting industrial waste heat from giant blast furnaces to produce power is an untapped source of GHG reduction for the city.

What does industry in Cleveland’s Flats need from lawmakers in Columbus to grease the skids for co-generation?

For one, making Ohio’s advanced energy mandate stronger, including provisions for co-generation, not weaker. Industry has indicated a willingness to explore co-generation (Arcelor Mittal is on the CAP advisory committee), so imagine what could be accomplished if the state enabled cooperation between it and the utilities.

The CAP also found that in Cleveland the big energy consumers—commercial and industrial buildings—account for 40% of the city’s 12.7 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs estimates that windows and artificial light account for 70% of the energy used by commercial buildings.

Instead of supporting a Lake Erie Wind Farm, or promoting a smart grid for commercial users, or helping industry capture its ‘grey’ power, the region's energy provider, FirstEnergy, seems more interested in making headlines for fighting the state’s Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard.

The company is not heeding where the winds of public opinion are blowing on clean versus dirty power. FirstEnergy, unlike its cohorts downstate, Duke and AEP, chooses not to exert its considerable influence on the source of its power. It chooses not to sell, likely at a higher profit, megawatts of power produced by wind turbines on Lake Erie just as easily as megawatts produced by dirty coal in plants like Lakeshore at E. 72nd in Cleveland (which was intended to be mothballed, but, observers note, is still visibly producing smoke up its stack).

Into the void come small business like Forest-City backed Quasar which built a “bio-digester” to convert Pierre’s Ice Cream scraps in to 1.3 megawatts of natural gas. Or, Athens-based Dovetail Solar and Wind who rode the wave of wind development in 2012 when thousands of new jobs and a record setting number of megawatts of new, clean energy come online in Ohio.

Another big, untapped market is Cleveland’s residential buildings, which add up to 13% of the city’s total global warming gasses. The CAP found that Cleveland homes are 54% more energy intensive than the nation’s. Cleveland’s mostly older housing stock is extremely inefficient in energy use. This screams for a private sector solution that can turn that figure in to a business opportunity.

Last night was also about highlighting what the city, citizens and the private sector can do together in big areas of Energy, Land Use and Transportation, and building consensus on what the city and community does next. To received updates on Cleveland Climate Action Plan (draft).

"Almost 13 million metric tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalents were emitted by the City of Cleveland in 2010. It's the same as the entire population of Cleveland driving to Cincinnati and back every day for a year."

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