Austin's commitment to cycling, electric vehicles, and renewable energy appears to be paying off environmentally. By at least one measure, Austin reigns as the greenest big city in Texas.
A new study by commercial real estate blog Commercial Café ranks Austin as the top sustainably powered big city in Texas and the 12th most sustainably powered big city in the U.S.
By comparison, Commercial Café put Dallas at No. 29 for sustainability, with San Antonio at No. 32 and Houston — dubbed the Energy Capital of the World, thanks to its status as an oil-and-gas hub — at No. 41.
To gauge how U.S. cities fare in terms of sustainability, Commercial Café sifted through mounds of data on factors such as number of bicycle commuters, number of charging stations for electric vehicles, and variety of sustainable-power methods, such as solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal.
In the ranking, Austin scored particularly well for the percentages of solar and wind power consumed by business and residential customers.
Austin Energy, a city-owned utility that provides by far the most power to homes and businesses in the Austin area, has set aggressive goals aimed at energizing the city’s sustainability initiatives. Those goals include:
- Achieving at least 55 percent renewable energy by 2025.
- Committing to 65 percent renewable energy by the end of 2027.
- Equipping the utility’s service area with solar capacity totaling at least 950 megawatts by 2025. Nationally, 1 megawatt of solar supplies power to 164 homes. By that yardstick, Austin Energy’s solar capacity would provide power to nearly 156,000 local homes by 2025.
“Austin is currently one of the greenest cities in the nation, with a sustainability plan to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050, and we would expect that our [standing] would rise every year as we achieve interim actions toward that goal,” Khalil Shalabi, vice president of strategy, technology, and marketing operations at Austin Energy, tells CultureMap.
According to the World Green Building Council, a net-zero-carbon building is highly energy efficient and is fully powered by on-site energy, off-site renewable energy, or both.
Despite the Capital City's commitment to the environment, that wasn’t enough to compete with San Francisco, which Commercial Café plugged into the No. 1 spot for sustainability, followed by Seattle at No. 2; Oakland, California, at No. 3; Portland, Oregon, at No. 4; and Boston at No. 5.