Kansas City Will Make Its Government 100 Percent Carbon-Free by Next Year

(Photo by Pam Broviak via Flickr)

Kansas City, Missouri, has voted unanimously to transition all its municipal electricity to carbon-free sources by the end of 2020.

The city’s finance and governance committee recommended Wednesday that the sustainability measure be immediately adopted, and the measure passed the full council Thursday.

The measure also directs the city to find 25 acres to develop a 5 megawatt community solar installation, giving city employees the option to subscribe to the farm. It also directs the city to purchase more all-electric or hybrid electric vehicles and to achieve Energy Star certification for most city buildings by 2023.

Councilmembers and city officials hope that the moves will inspire other cities to take similar action. “Where Kansas City leads, other cities follow,” councilmember Scott Taylor, one of the bill’s sponsors, said at the council meeting Thursday.

Taylor is running for mayor, the Kansas City Star reported.

As part of the deal, Kansas City Power & Light will build a new wind farm, Fox 4 KC reports. The city is Kansas City Power & Light’s largest customer.

The Wichita Eagle reports that KCP&L has already been betting big on wind, as well as spending billions of dollars on retrofitting coal-fired plants. These big expenditures, just as the price of natural gas was plummeting, means that — for now — Kansans’ electric bills are actually higher than those in neighboring states. But Kansas City legislators believe the change will eventually save taxpayers money.

“It’s a savings for all taxpayers because electricity is paid out of our general fund,” Taylor told Fox 4.

Kansas City was among the first cities to declare its support for the goals of the Paris Agreement, with Mayor Sly James tweeting on June 1, 2017 — the same day President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement — that he was “proud to join 60 fellow #ClimateMayors” in implementing the goals of the agreement. “The world cannot wait & neither will we,” he added.

The number of U.S. mayors that have since pledged to uphold the Paris climate goals has since risen to more than 400, according to the Climate Mayors, writing on Medium.

Kansas City has been making strides toward environmental friendliness for years; last year, the city announced it had reduced its municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below year 2000 levels, surpassing its goal of a 30 percent reduction by 2020, Greenability Magazine reported. The new goals are much more aggressive, as they require the city to transition not just off coal but off natural gas as well.

Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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