Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS) visited the Chicago Urban League to announce an agreement with electricity supplier Constellation to meet the city’s needs with 100% renewable energy by 2025.
Swift Current Energy will collaborate with the utility to develop and deliver 100% renewable energy to all city facilities and operations within three years, making Chicago one of the largest cities in the world to make such a commitment.
“I am incredibly proud to advance this commitment to transitioning all city operations to 100% renewable energy by 2025,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The signing of this agreement demonstrates that the City of Chicago is leading by example and driving high-impact climate action, building the clean energy workforce of the future and equitably distributing meaningful benefits to foster the local clean energy economy for all.”
Under the contract, the City entered into an energy supply agreement with an initial term of five years, beginning January 2023. Starting in 2025, the City will partially source its large energy uses such as the airports, Harold Washington Library Center and Jardine Water Purification Plant with clean, renewable energy from a new solar generation installation currently being developed by Swift Current Energy to the south outside Chicago. The project is expected to begin construction before the end of this year, bringing hundreds of construction jobs to the state of Illinois.
Constellation and Swift Current Energy have made financial commitments under the agreement to help fund job training, apprenticeships, education, and other programs in Chicago that focus on the development of a diverse, clean energy and sustainability-focused workforce. This approach will enable innovative local and equitable co-benefits agreements that will fund community climate infrastructure projects and workforce development training.
Constellation’s chief commercial officer Jim McHugh said the collaboration will also call for environmental justice initiatives. “As we work with our customers to implement sustainability initiatives, it is especially important that we help underserved and under-resourced communities participate in the transition to a carbon free future. We look forward to collaborating with Swift Current Energy to bring this project to life for the City of Chicago,” he said.
The 100% renewable agreement is the result of a competitive process that began with requests for proposals in September 2020. Chicago’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) calls for a 62% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 through direct investment and action by the city. By procuring solar energy for city operations, Chicago is expected to reduce its carbon footprint by more than 290,000 metric tons each year, equivalent to emissions associated with 62,000 passenger vehicles, according to US Environmental Protection Agency estimates.
“As the owner or operator of over 425 facilities city-wide, including City Hall and one of the world’s busiest airports, it is imperative that we as city leaders take all measures necessary to decarbonize our assets and to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change,” said Sandra Blakemore, Acting Commissioner for AIS.
To support the city’s needs, Swift Current Energy will own and operate Double Black Diamond Solar, a 593 MW facility, one of the largest in Illinois to date. “As the long-term owner and operator of Double Black Diamond Solar, Swift Current Energy will continue to strengthen our relationships with the project customers, Constellation and the host communities to ensure the benefits of the project are robust and long-lasting,” said Matt Birchby, co-founder and president of Swift Current Energy.
The City of Chicago will also procure Renewable Energy Credits from other sources for its remaining power uses, such as small and medium-sized buildings and streetlights.
“Chicago is thrilled to leverage our buying power to develop more equitable outcomes for the renewable energy market here in the State of Illinois,” said Angela Tovar, Chief Sustainability Officer. “The City of Chicago is proud to execute strategies that demonstrate our commitment to the goals outlined in CEJA including delivering community benefits to residents and reinvesting funding to spur more renewable energy deployment within the city limits.”
As a next step, AIS and the Chief Sustainability Officer will lead strategic planning to identify opportunities to encourage additional local, distributed renewable generation, city asset energy efficiency projects, and distributed energy storage within the city.
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