Powering Strong Communities

NREL Toolkit Helps Tallahassee Plan for a 100 Percent Clean Energy Future

The city of Tallahassee, Fla., is moving toward 100 percent clean energy with the help of a tool developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In 2019, Tallahassee set a goal of achieving 100 percent net clean, renewable energy by 2050. The city’s interim goals call for having all municipal buildings, light-duty vehicles, and buses powered by clean energy by 2035. To date, all municipal buildings are covered by solar energy, a third of its bus fleet is electric, and more than 15 percent of its light duty fleet is electric. Tallahassee city planners are now looking at a path forward for the rest of the community.

“As a municipal utility, we began the clean energy journey decades ago by offering energy-efficiency incentives and free energy audits to our customers,” Michael Ohlsen, clean energy and resource planning manager for Tallahassee’s electric and gas utility, said in a statement. “Transforming our utility to clean energy, as well as electrifying our transportation sector, will expand this commitment exponentially and requires a thoughtful, concerted approach.”

To assist in that process, Tallahassee sought assistance from NREL, which has created a toolkit specifically to help Florida communities. The toolkit outlines resources at every planning stage for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation. It also contains a searchable database that may be relevant to many communities across the United States, not just Florida, NREL said.

In 2022, NREL worked with Tallahassee and Sarasota, looking at different aspects of the clean energy planning process and shared the full potential of its State and Local Planning for Energy platform and its Low-Income Energy Affordability Data tool.

“The new toolkit takes a city or energy planner’s approach to outlining the resources needed for each step of implementing a clean energy project,” Katie Richardson, NREL group manager, said in a statement. “From convening stakeholders to iterating on successes, the toolkit can help local governments, utilities, planners, developers, funders, advocacy groups, and community members achieve their energy goals.”

Tallahassee conducted three rounds of public engagement between 2020 and 2022 to seek insights and guidance at each stage of the planning process and is now developing policy and program recommendations.

“Having extra tools available assisted us in displaying complex information in an approachable way,” Ohlsen said. “This helped facilitate constructive conversations with our citizens. It also helped us understand what the data was saying and how it informs the planning process.”