Cities account for more than 70% of global carbon emissions. But this challenge presents an opportunity: cities can be at the center of combatting climate change by leading the charge to renewable energy. The path to clean energy can be difficult for cities due to limited capacity, resources, technical expertise and, in some cases, regulatory barriers, making it difficult for them to fully seize this opportunity.

The City Renewables Accelerator, an initiative of the American Cities Climate Challenge, was launched in 2018 to support U.S. local governments as they seek to procure renewable energy to meet—or beat—their near-term emissions reduction goals. Jointly led by WRI and RMI in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), the City Renewables Accelerator offered one-on-one technical support to the 25 selected Climate Challenge cities and resources and education for hundreds of other local government staff interested in powering their communities with low-carbon renewable energy.

While the Climate Challenge has officially sunset, the City Renewables Accelerator team continues to develop resources and facilitate education and peer exchange amongst local governments. We help local governments understand municipal and communitywide renewable energy procurement options, deployment strategies and best practices. We also help local governments navigate regulatory, policy and institutional barriers by facilitating engagement with utilities, regulators (such as public utility commissions) and state legislatures. 

The City Renewables Accelerator offers:

  • Trainings and resources on federal funding. WRI and RMI maintain a database of Federal Funding Opportunities for Local Decarbonization that local governments can use to locate and prioritize funding. We have also put together guidance on funding for clean energy initiatives and run a corresponding training series. Additionally, the WRI CRA team, with support from the Local Infrastructure Hub, produced a guidebook for local governments as they work to maximize the clean energy tax incentives within the Inflation Reduction Act. 
  • A library of city-focused technical resources and tools. Cities have access to a library of resources to help guide their procurement decisions and actions, including “how-to” guides focused on specific procurement methods, guidance on engaging with energy-system decision makers like utilities, a local government renewables transactions tracker, primers on integrating equity into city clean energy initiatives, templates that can be adapted and used in transaction documents and more. 
  • In-person and virtual trainings and peer exchange. We run in-person trainings with an emphasis on facilitated peer learning, ranging from “Renewable Energy Procurement 101” to deep-dive boot camps focused on specific procurement methods. These are led by practitioners with real-world energy procurement experience, including faculty from cities. We also facilitate virtual workshops, webinars and cohorts to continue the peer-learning process.

Photo by Michael Righi / Flickr