Advancing City Energy Supply Transformation

New MCG research and resources identify trends and strategies for cities to transition effectively and equitably toward 100% renewable electricity.

Renewable energy presents U.S. cities with tremendous opportunities to advance cleaner environments, sustainable energy supplies, local jobs and economic development, and can also generate cost savings for residents, businesses, and the public sector. City transitions to renewable energy, however, are not straight-forward: placing cities on a path to zero-carbon energy systems will require transformative changes in the way that electricity is produced, purchased, and consumed. To meet this goal, cities, their residents, and the utilities that serve them will need to procure electricity generated from carbon-free sources while substantially increasing local renewable energy generation.

Many of the critical policy decisions involved in this transformation must be made by outside of the jurisdictions of cities, requiring extensive engagement of stakeholders as well as thoughtful advancement of strategies that are within cities’ control. For example, in the U.S., the vast majority of cities do not directly control their energy supply. Instead, policy and regulation is set at state, regional, and national levels. As cities strive to meet their deep decarbonization and renewable energy goals, they will need to act on and influence their energy systems in new and creative ways.

A transition to renewable energy offers cities the chance to advance the well-being of a broad range of its residents, but equitable transitions must be pursued deliberately, thoughtfully, and with the engagement of a broad range of city stakeholders and residents. Integration of equity into sustainability planning is a growing area of focus for cities in the U.S. and around the world, but energy supply planning offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities that require special focus to ensure positive outcomes.

To help cities advance effective and equitable energy supply transformation planning, MCG has developed a suite of products that summarize the key factors cities must consider, identify potential strategies appropriate in different circumstances, and illuminate emerging trends in approaches cities are taking. These resources recognize that the unique circumstances of different cities may lead to very different approaches to planning and implementation and therefore do not suggest that there is a one-size-fits-all strategy for cities to use. Rather the resources offer frameworks that can support the planning process, as well as insights into the proven – and emerging – practices that leading cities are using to accelerate the shift to clean, renewable energy.

Pathways to 100: An Energy Supply Transformation Primer for U.S. Cities. This guide is designed to help cities plan for a transition towards 100% renewable electricity supply. Cities and their partners can use “Pathways to 100” to 1) understand their unique energy landscape, 2) identify strategies that are applicable to their utility and state policy context, and 3) organize city staff and external networks to support energy supply transformation. The report includes an appendix to help cities embed equity in their city energy supply system transformation.


Framework for an Equitable Energy Supply Transformation. This framework can help cities embed equity in city energy supply transformation to low- or zero-carbon sources. It includes themed sets of guiding questions city staff and other stakeholders can consider when developing plans and policies for transforming their energy supply to meet their climate goals. The guide helps users to understand potential policy and program impacts via the lenses of procedural, distributional, structural, and transgenerational equity.


Innovations in City Clean Energy and Equity Planning. This report provides a snapshot of emerging strategies used by city leaders to transform their energy supply and to improve social equity. It describes strategies and highlights examples from North American Cities undertaking those strategies, including community choice aggregation, leveraging franchise agreements, and enacting incentives and mandates for renewable energy installations.


Road to Renewable: A Needs Assessment for North American Cities Leading on Energy Supply Transformation. Based on interviews with municipal staff in 14 North American cities, MCG developed a needs assessment to characterize current municipal energy management practices and to identify resources and infrastructure needed to help move cities successfully towards their energy transformation goals. The report identifies needs connected to equity and community engagement, collaborating and engaging with utilities, state policy and regulation, city staff and resources, and networks and collaboration.


This work was made possible through the generous support of the Energy Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Summit Foundation and developed in collaboration with the Innovation Network for Communities, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance.

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