Columbia, South Carolina, USA

South Carolina State House, Columbia, South Carolina, USA

  • Target: 100% renewable energy by 2036
  • Status: In progress
  • RES: Solar energy
  • Implementation: As the first municipality in South Carolina to commit to 100% renewable energy, the city of Columbia today powers its municipal buildings with 100% solar energy and all of the traffic lights have been converted to LED. When record downpours in 2015 caused severe flooding in Columbia, destroying roads and dams, causing billions of dollars in damage, and costing 19 people their lives, its Mayor Steve Benjamin pushed to address the growing threat of climate disruption by supporting clean energy legislation at state and local levels. In June 2017, Columbia adopted its clean energy resolution. To meet this goal, the city planned to implement  a thorough energy efficiency audit, a solar-powered wastewater facility, and transition municipal operations to 100% renewable energy. These efforts would run parallel to sustainable water management and wastewater infrastructure improvements that are designed to guard against future flooding. Community health was another motivation for the 100% target, as this impacted by fossil-fuel pollution and natural disasters. The resolution also emphasizes economic growth, job creation, and reduced utility costs. The city makes use of the Solarize South Carolina program and legislation that not only lifted the cap on net metering and rooftop solar, but also help increase solar energy–related jobs in Columbia by 46% in just one year (2015-2016). Columbia did face some setbacks - solar legislation stipulated a cap if solar output reached 2% of peak energy production.  Rapid growth of solar energy in Columbia and other parts of the state triggered this cap several years sooner than expected, which may have resulted in the loss of many solar-related jobs and a drop in solar power usage. A bill that proposed allowing new customers to install home solar panels failed at the state level. Also, plans to develop a solar-powered wastewater facility were stalled by the 2015 floods, and the local utility backed out. The city has now taken up the project and is looking to redesign and build the facility itself. In December 2017, Columbia became the only city in South Carolina to receive a 3-star certification by STAR Communities, a measure of local sustainability progress against national standards. The city has set a goal to improve its rating from 3 stars to 4 (out of a possible 5) over the next three years.
  • Population: 133,451 (2018)
  • Area: 134.9 sq mi (349 km2)
  • Link: Ready for 100
South Carolina State House, Columbia, South Carolina, USA