“In West Hartford, we strive to employ forward thinking and best practices to improve the quality of life for our residents; this includes accelerating the development of locally-based clean, renewable energy,” explained West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. When we started, ‘Virtual Net Metering’ was a new concept to us, but we learned quickly about its many benefits and we embraced it. We are saving money, cutting carbon emissions, and hopefully providing a ‘best practice’ for others in supporting their local climate action.
Cantor’s comments came as West Hartford was recognized for their local climate efforts as part of the 14th Annual Climate Protection Awards, an initiative sponsored by The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Walmart.
The award program demonstrates how cities of all sizes are dealing with the effects of climate change and the impact mayors are having on protecting the environment for future generations, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
West Hartford participates in a Virtual Net Metering program for 2.4 megawatts (MW) of solar. Renewable, solar energy is produced off-site (50 miles away in Thompson, CT) and “virtually” net metered against eight municipal buildings and schools, which serve as “beneficial accounts” for the credits associated with the solar generation, the USCM explained. This program directly aligns with the vision of the 2020 Energy Plan, as written by the West Hartford Clean Energy Commission: “We aspire for our entire community to use 100 percent clean energy by 2050.” Virtual Net Metering is a relatively new concept in Connecticut, the USCM noted.
“Mayors Peduto and Cantor show us how local leadership is delivering cost-effective solutions to the growing climate challenges before our cities, our nation and the world,” said USCM President Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “The innovation and creativity of these mayors and the other award winners will hopefully inspire other mayors, as well as all our federal partners, to join us in taking climate action.”
Hartford Mayor Bronin was recognized for efforts to promote Energy Justice. Since 2017, Mayor Bronin’s Office of Sustainability has led energy justice initiatives that serve Hartford’s most vulnerable residents and has helped address the city’s "fiscal crisis. Through outreach and advocacy, the two-person, primarily grant-funded team has worked with city departments and the community to launch an energy equity campaign, landfill solar efforts, and energy-saving tree distributions. The office also organizes volunteer-led Energy Improvement District meetings and convenes stakeholders on city energy contracts related to virtual net metering, demand response, and renewable energy credits that generate significant savings.
“President-elect Biden has rightly pledged to make climate protection a top priority of his new Administration, and mayors stand ready to join with him to meet the climate challenges before all of us,” said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director. “Mayors have a record of success in taking climate action at the local level and have urged greater federal engagement and commitments on climate protection to bolster and expand upon what mayors are already doing.”
In addition to Mayor Bronin, the large cities earning Honorable Mention were: Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley – Cincinnati Clean Energy Program; Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego – Green and Sustainability Bond Program; Rochester (MN) Mayor Kim Norton – Vision for Rochester; and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero – Santa Cruz River Heritage Project. Small City Honorable Mentions went to the mayors of Albany, NY; Framingham, MA; Manhattan Beach, San Leandro and San Luis Obispo.