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Mayor Cooper Announces Multiple Initiatives to Combat Climate Change and Promote Sustainability, Signs Global Covenant of Mayors

12/5/2019
Chris Song

Mayor John Cooper today announced that his administration has signed the Global Covenant of Mayors as a precursor to participating in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of 94 leading cities around the world focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Mayor Cooper also introduced multiple local initiatives underway by his administration to address climate change and sustainability in Nashville and Davidson County.

“Since entering office, I began addressing immediate impediments to the function of our city – namely our financial condition,” said Mayor Cooper. “But my administration has been keenly aware of other longstanding concerns, including threats to our environment and the protection of our limited natural resources. Members of my staff have been focused on identifying opportunities to improve the stewardship of our city’s clean air, water, tree canopy, and other natural amenities.”

Nashville’s participation in the Global Covenant of Mayors requires ambitious local climate and energy action and a transition to a low-emission and resilient urban environment to benefit public and environmental health and to lay the foundation for a prosperous economy.

“Since Nashville is my home, I am honored to help Mayor Cooper advance our city’s work to address the climate crisis,” said former Vice President Al Gore. “He is taking important steps forward that should lead to even greater commitments. He is thinking globally and acting locally -- as we all should.”

Mayor Cooper’s administration will also work toward reducing Nashville’s community-scale emissions 30 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050. To lead by example, CO2-reduction targets for Metro Government will be 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Using Nashville’s most recent emissions inventories as a baseline, these targets were developed upon surveying those adopted by peer and aspirational cities and align with science-based recommendations in the Paris Climate Accord to reduce absolute CO2 emissions by three percent annually until 2050 in order to hold global warming to 2°C.

Mayor Cooper’s initial climate change and sustainability initiatives include:

  • solar power array installation atop Historic Metro Courthouse to be included in the next Capital Improvements Budget, expanding Metro’s renewable energy portfolio;
  • the creation of an “Energy Savings Program” to support energy efficiency efforts in Metro’s general government facilities;
  • LEED certifications achieved for Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus, Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center;
  • the establishment of a Sustainability Advisory Board to review active proposals as they are being implemented through legislation; and
  • the introduction of legislation with Metro Council members to further strengthen tree protections under the Metro Code.

“As we enjoy the holiday season, it is perhaps likely we will not see a proverbial white Christmas this year,” added Mayor Cooper. “But we can certainly work to have a green one. To ensure that our environment is as safeguarded as our pocketbooks, I am proud to announce these initial sustainability projects and policies with the guarantee that more are forthcoming, for the sake of our children and all future Nashvillians.”

Following is a detailed list of Mayor Cooper’s initial climate change and environmental initiatives:

1. Solar power installations across Metro facilities

A. Metro Courthouse

Among Mayor Cooper’s initial proposals is the implementation of a full solar panel array atop the Historic Metropolitan Courthouse. This effort will reduce the building’s costs by offsetting consumption with clean, onsite renewable energy.

Initial steps will include conducting a solar feasibility assessment to determine the ideal location and total number of solar panels that can be installed. It is estimated that the courthouse rooftop could accommodate over 200 individual solar panels capable of generating 72 kilowatts of renewable carbon-free energy.

This would constitute the first retrofit of an existing Metro building under the Metro Council’s local “Green New Deal” enacted under Ordinance Nos. BL2019-1599 and -1600. This legislation adopted a renewable energy standard outlining staged goals toward eventually achieving 100 percent renewable energy for Metro-owned buildings by 2041. The “Green New Deal” legislation also adopts an energy retrofit program across at least 9 percent of metro government-owned buildings with a goal of achieving at least 20 percent reductions in average energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mayor’s Office has instructed the Department of General Services to manage the solar installation and building retrofit. The department currently manages nearly 100 facilities and has had experience and success with managing, monitoring, and reducing energy costs across its facilities.

The Historic Metropolitan Courthouse building, managed by the Department of General Services, currently offsets an average of 3.5 percent of its electricity by solar via a subscription to Music City Solar. The production from 510 solar panels at the city’s community solar park in Madison are directed towards the Courthouse’s electricity bills.

B. Other solar power array locations forthcoming

Once installed, the Historic Metropolitan Courthouse will join other Metro locations where solar power arrays are being installed, including the Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus (with 144 solar panels generating 50.4 kilowatts), the Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center (with 864 solar panels generating 302 kilowatts), and the Bellevue Community Center (with 430 panels generating 150 kilowatts).

C. Metro Water Services 1.7-megawatt solar power facilities

An even more expansive plan is underway at Metro Water Services (MWS), which has initiated plans to install 1.7 megawatts of solar power generating capacity at three of their facilities − two wastewater treatment plants and one water treatment plant. The combined facilities will generate over 2 GWh of electricity annually − enough to power over 100 homes − and will avoid nearly 2,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The MWS procurement process begins December 5, 2019 with publication and release of the RFP. The procurement approach relies upon a third-party ownership model that will result in only marginal capital investment by the department. MWS will then enjoy direct use of the solar power generated at their facilities, offsetting an estimated six million dollars’ worth of conventional power over 20 years.

D. Renewable Investment Agreement with TVA for utility-scale solar power

In pursuit of even more substantial utility-scale solar power for Nashville, Mayor Cooper recently directed the Department of General Services to sign an initial agreement with NES and TVA allowing the Mayor’s Office to explore a Renewable Investment Agreement (RIA) whereby TVA would procure renewable energy from new renewable generation resources within the Tennessee Valley area for the benefit of Nashville.

While Metro’s efforts to develop clean sources of renewable energy are just beginning, the Mayor’s Office encourages Nashvillians who have the resources to consider solar installations at their own homes and businesses.

2. Energy Savings Program to improve efficiency

Mayor Cooper has commissioned the Department of General Services with establishing an “Energy Savings Program” to support energy efficiency efforts in Metro’s general government facilities with a goal of substantial reductions in energy consumption and costs.

To implement reductions, the Department of General Services will manage an “Energy Savings Revolving Fund” deploying ongoing measurement and tracking of energy savings projects for most Metro department facilities. This approach will provide a broad range of energy solutions, including design and implementation of energy savings projects, energy conservation measures, energy audits, energy infrastructure retrofits, building automation systems, utility expense management, and building retro-commissioning.

To track and manage the projects and energy savings, General Services’ sustainability team will be installing a new energy management system. The system will deliver high-quality data tracking used to provide visibility into an asset’s energy performance, accurate reporting of Metro’s progress towards greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, and the identification of actionable energy conservation measures. The software will be able to organize, track, visualize, benchmark, and effectively communicate trends of all commodities related to energy consumed by buildings managed by the Department of General Services.

General Services currently manages nearly 100 facilities and has had experience and success with monitoring and reducing energy costs in these facilities. Further, the department has an innovative Center of Responsible Energy staffed with an experienced team knowledgeable in energy management that monitors building automation systems in nearly half of its buildings, a seasoned energy manager, and in-depth expertise in reporting on energy utilization through the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

3. LEED certifications for Metro buildings

A. Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus, Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center

Achieving cost savings from energy efficiency will be a priority under the Cooper administration. Today, Mayor Cooper is proud to announce the pursuit of green building certification by two Metro-owned facilities.

With the assistance of the Department of General Services, the Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus has just been awarded LEED Silver certification. And the Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center is successfully tracking toward LEED Gold certification.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and an international symbol of efficiency and sustainability. Through design, construction, and operations practices that improve environmental and human health, LEED-certified buildings make the world more sustainable.

The Sheriff’s 416,000 square foot campus in downtown Nashville will be the first of its kind to achieve LEED Silver certification in the state of Tennessee. The campus includes 436 detention cells on five levels, 60 behavioral health beds, a medical unit, kitchen and laundry facilities, intake and processing facilities, administrative space and visitation, and staff parking. This state-of-the-art facility achieved LEED certification by implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions toward sustainability in several areas, including site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. More than 84 percent of the construction and demolition debris was diverted from landfills, with 33 percent of the materials containing recycled content and 50 percent of the materials procured regionally. The facility was designed to reduce water consumption by 45 percent and energy use by 21.6 percent, with a portion of the electricity demand generated onsite with rooftop solar panels. Certification is proof that the Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus is being constructed and operated to the highest level of sustainability.

4. Establishment of Sustainability Advisory Board

Among Mayor Cooper’s other initial undertakings will be the establishment of a Sustainability Advisory Board that will review actual sustainability initiatives advanced by the Mayor’s Office and by the Metro Council.

Previous administrations have convened environmental groups whose well-meaning members ably gathered, discussed, and prepared reports filled with ambitious proposals and recommendations. But today, Metro’s problem is not a lack of proposals − it is the implementation of those proposals into actual practice. That is why the Advisory Board will be charged – to review active proposals as they are being implemented through legislation and policy changes.

5. Saving and strengthening Nashville’s tree canopy

Locally, Metro’s policies must promote and protect efforts to restore a healthy tree canopy. Planting trees is an effective and cost-conscious way to fight climate change.1 The Metro Council has approved important legislation toward the protection of Nashville’s tree canopy, yet much more remains to be done. While a wholesale revision to Metro’s current Code is suggested by some, such efforts would require substantial costs and labor at a time of significant budgetary constraint. But incremental measures can at least continue the momentum forward until Metro’s fiscal house is in order.

To that end, Mayor Cooper is introducing initial legislation with Metro Council Member Angie Henderson to further strengthen tree protections under the Metro Code. Specifically, the legislation will propose the elimination of an exemption to tree density requirements that unintentionally reduces tree volume by nearly 70 percent based solely upon lot dimensions. (See, Metropolitan Code of Laws, sec. 17.24.100.B.2).

Christmas Tree

Sustainable practices for a vital tree canopy can and should include Nashville’s annual Christmas Tree – an important symbol where Metro’s practices can likewise be of symbolic significance. Therefore, for the first time, the Metro Parks Department will provide a “replacement value plus” for each tree harvested for Public Square holiday decorations. After a Christmas Tree is donated, the Parks Department will plant multiple replacement trees equivalent to twice the caliper inch measurement of the Christmas Tree, literally doubling the diameter volume of replaced trees. Further, the Christmas Tree will be decorated with over 5,000 LED lights powered exclusively by solar energy.

Joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

As Metro acts locally, it is important to continue to think globally − being mindful of the impact the city’s conduct has upon others around the world. To that end, Mayor Cooper has added his signature to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, a global coalition of city leaders dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making their communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and providing access to sustainable energy.

By taking these initial actions, Nashville secures its commitment to local climate and energy action and the transition to a low-emission and climate-resilient urban environment that will benefit the health of the community and lay the groundwork for a prosperous economic future.

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1 (Science, July 5, 2019: Vol. 365. Issue 6448, pp. 76-79)