Published in Solar Industry Magazine
June 27, 2016

The mayors of New Bedford, Mass., and Richmond, Va., have been named the U.S.’ top winners in the 2016 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards, an initiative sponsored by The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Walmart. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this mayors’ awards program recognizes mayors for their energy and climate protection efforts, selected by an independent panel of judges from a pool of mayoral applicants.

New Bedford Mayor Jonathan F. Mitchell won first place under the “small city” category (population below 100,000), and Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones won first place under the “large city” category (population over 100,000).

According to the USCM, New Bedford’s solar and wind energy initiatives have established the city as a national leader. The USCM says that with more than 16 MW of solar projects having been constructed to provide power for municipal facilities, New Bedford, on a per-capita basis, has more installed solar capacity than any city in the continental U.S. As a result, utility costs to city government have been cut by nearly $1 million, with $22 million in savings projected over the next 20 years. New Bedford has also been a leader in the conversion of its municipal fleet to electric vehicles, and the city is poised to play a prominent future role in the offshore wind energy industry as wind projects now in development look to the city’s specialized port terminal as a key staging area.

“As a prominent East Coast port, New Bedford has a lot at stake when it comes to sea-level rise and climate change. That’s why I’ve always thought it is important for us to lead by example,” remarks Mitchell. “Whether it’s our nation-leading solar program or our efforts around offshore wind energy, we’ve tried to demonstrate that much can be accomplished when there is a strong local consensus and sustained commitment to big renewable energy goals. New Bedford is honored to receive this recognition for our efforts.”

Regarding Richmond, the USCM says that RVAgreen, the city’s sustainability and energy management program, makes Richmond more livable, more competitive and more resilient, while improving the economic and environmental performance of its government operations. This community-based plan was developed over a yearlong process with the input of more than 400 citizens and 65 stakeholder organizations and has five focus areas: economic development, energy, environment, open space and land use, and transportation. The USCM says the city has also developed 12 broad indicators to assess progress on its sustainability goals and the headway made in achieving the 55 sustainability initiatives that were established under RVAgreen. Accomplishments thus far include new buildings performance standards, fleet conversions to alternative fuel, expanded curbside recycling, and tree planting, among others.

“Mayors Jon Mitchell and Dwight Jones are both innovators and leaders, showing us how to confront the energy and climate protection challenges before our cities and the nation,” says Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, president of the USCM. “As we witnessed in Paris late last year, it is the mayors who are the first responders in this global battle, whether it is reducing harmful emissions or fortifying their cities to withstand increasing threats from climatic events.”

In addition to the first-place winners, Honorable Mentions were awarded to mayors in three large cities and three small cities for their exceptional achievements in efforts to promote climate protection. More information on all of the 2016 winners is available here.