- Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday the city plans to partner with others to explore collective purchasing of renewable energy in order to bring down costs and incentivize more development.
- Already, Boston has recruited Chicago; Houston; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; Portland, Ore. and Evanston, Ill. Walsh is urging more cities to join the collective purchase.
- Boston's government will put out a request for information (RFI) for competitive pricing by the end of the summer, once the list of participating cities has been finalized.
Cities have used collective purchasing agreements to bring down the cost of expenses like police and fire equipment; Boston’s own Metropolitan Area Planning Council has touted its work in coordinating purchasing. This is believed to be the first time such an agreement has been used nationally to work on renewable energy. The Boston Globe notes that MIT, Boston Medical Center and the Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation formed a similar collective two year ago to purchase electricity from a solar power farm in North Carolina, which helped bolster the solar facility’s development.
Cities have become key drivers of climate change work as the federal government has stepped away from the Paris climate agreement and domestic climate initiatives. That’s included a lot of collective lobbying, notably around the "We Are Taking Action" collective, which touts concrete steps towards environmental efforts. Walsh’s announcement came at the Mayors Climate Summit in Boston, which he is hosting before the U.S. Conference of Mayors begins its annual meeting in the same city.
The renewable energy initiative would be a significant step. It would not only help cities get clean energy at a lower cost than they might get when signing individual contracts, but would offer certainty to the renewable industry by giving a potentially huge customer base. Cost has remained a barrier to large-scale purchases, so any effort by mayors could provide a boost to the industry and to their own climate goals. Boston has promised to go carbon neutral by 2050, a goal that would require cheaper clean energy.
It remains to be seen how renewable companies will respond to the contract request; providing energy to that many cities with such geographical diversity could be a challenge and could spur some creativity from the industry.