Local governments across the country are not only making commitments to clean energy, but are taking action. The interactive map and charts below provide an overview of the renewable energy transactions announced by cities, municipal utilities, counties, and community choice aggregations between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2020. Note that the types of deals available may vary based on state level regulatory policies and, in some cases, local circumstances (e.g. the existence of a local, municipal utility or co-op).
Frequently Asked Questions
For the purpose of this Tracker, “transaction” is defined as electricity purchases and deals that are linked to specific renewable energy projects and thus to renewable electricity generation, such as on-site solar, community solar, off-site physical power purchase agreements (PPAs), off-site virtual PPAs, and green tariff contracts.
“Local government” is in turn defined as any governing body whose geographic reach is contained within a U.S. state, which most commonly includes cities, counties, and tribal governments.
In order to be included in the Tracker, transactions must meet the following criteria:
- The purchasing organization must be, or be controlled by, a local government, with the exception of community solar projects.
- A transaction must directly support specific renewable energy generation projects.
- The buyer and the project must be in the United States.
- The transaction was announced between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2020. If an announcement date cannot be determined for a project, the operational start date is assumed to be the announcement date. If neither an announcement date nor an operational start date can be determined for a project, it is omitted from the Tracker.
For more information on the inclusion criteria, please see the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker’s Technical Note.
The Renewables Accelerator team has collected the Transaction Tracker data by:
- Conducting LexisNexis searches of press releases relating to local government renewable electricity transactions.
- Incorporating known datasets from other key partners or organizations, such as the list of local government renewables contract data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership Program, and the list of CCA New Renewable Long-Term Power Purchases published by the California Community Choice Association
- Distributing the list to local governments to allow them to suggest additions and modifications.
For further details on the data collection methodology and sources used for the Transaction Tracker, please see the Local Government Renewable Action Tracker’s Technical Note.
You can download the data in Excel format here. The file also includes information on the publicly available sources that provide more details on each transaction, which can be found under the “Source” column.
On-site solar projects are the solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on rooftops, parking lots, or land at the same locations where electricity is consumed. For the purposes of this tool, however, the on-site solar category also includes virtual net metered projects. See the question “How are remote or virtually net metered projects classified?” for more information.
Community solar projects are midsized solar projects (i.e. 1-10 MW) sited within the customer’s utility service territory and connected to the distribution grid. The output of the solar array is divided among multiple subscribers, who receive utility bill credits for their share of the solar array’s energy production.
Off-site physical PPAs are contracts in which a customer agrees to purchase the energy produced by a generator over a period of time for a predetermined price per unit of energy, such as a megawatt-hour (MWh). The seller typically delivers electricity to a “delivery point” that is near the buyers’ location, and the customer takes legal title to the energy.
Off-site virtual PPAs, also known as “contracts for differences,” or “fixed-for-floating swaps,” are financial arrangements between a developer and the buyer which guarantees a cash flow for the renewable energy project based on output.
Green tariffs are a utility price structure that allow a class of customers to source up to 100% of their electricity from renewable resources.
Long-term REC purchases are the renewable energy certificate (REC) procurement tied to a specific project with a contract of at least five years.
For more information on each transaction type, please see the Procurement Guidance.
In some states, local governments have the ability to use remote net metering (or virtual net metering) rules to receive net metering credits for solar projects located within the broader community. The freedom to site projects in open spaces or on large commercial buildings allows for larger installations, similar to community solar projects. However, remote net metered deals most closely resemble on-site projects from a contractual perspective, and they are therefore categorized as on-site projects in this tool.
The Tracker is meant to highlight specific renewable energy projects that cities have supported through their efforts. One-time purchases of unbundled RECs are not included as these purchases can fluctuate year to year and do not represent an ongoing contract or arrangement with a specific renewable energy project. Long-term (greater than five years) REC purchases that are tied to a specific project are included.
Purchasing energy from a renewable energy project can reduce a local government’s greenhouse gas emissions, but only if the local government purchases and retires the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) or an equivalent number of RECs from another source. Ownership of these RECs gives a local government the legal right to claim to be using renewable energy, yet local governments only rarely provide information on whether or not the RECs are purchased as part of a transaction. As such, the information provided in this Tracker should not be used in isolation to estimate a local government’s greenhouse gas emission reductions or renewable energy use.
The Transaction Tracker will be updated on at least a quarterly basis.
While our team excludes some deals based upon our methodology, it is possible we simply could not find information on your transaction. Use this form to submit information on your community’s renewables transaction and improve our resource!
If your question is not included in the above list, you may want to review the Technical Note for this resource or contact our team through this form or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to learn more about a specific transaction, and your city is part of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), you could begin by inquiring directly with network members or via USDN’s discussion forums. You could also reach out to us via the aforementioned “Contact” form and we will address your question to the best of our ability.
Our suggested citation for the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker is:
Abbott, S., Goncalves, T., House, H., Jungblut, W., Liu, Y., Roche, P., Shaver, L., and Walz, E. 2021. ‘Local Government Renewables Action Tracker.’ Washington, DC: Rocky Mountain Institute and World Resources Institute. Available online at: https://cityrenewables.org/local-government-renewables-action-tracker