San Antonio (and Houston, and Dallas, and Austin) have made important strides in building increasingly sustainable cities rich in low-polluting clean-tech technologies and developing carbon-reduction strategies. San Antonio’s CPS Energy and Austin’s Austin Energy continue to lead nationally in green-power sales, for instance, and important weatherization efforts, electric-vehicle charging stations, and updated building codes have been implemented.
But despite a mammoth pledge two years ago by Mayor Julián Castro to put San Antonio on course to become the nation’s “recognized leader in clean energy technology” as well as zealous reports locally about our city’s changing national profile since then, San Antonio (and Houston, and Dallas, and even Austin, to be fair) are lagging behind in the development and deployment of key aspects that make up the cities of the future, according to an annual index of a variety of critical factors released this month by Clean Edge, a leading clean-tech research and advisory firm.
Among the states, California still reigns, the report states, as “the epicenter of the U.S. clean-tech market.” Behind follow Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, Illinois, Minnesota, and Hawaii. Texas folds neatly into the middle of the pack at position 25. It rises only a single slot when state-level policies regarding the setting of renewable energy standards, net-metering laws, and climate action plans come into consideration.
But San Antonians already knew their state is screwed. I mean, we have a cabal of climate-change deniers running things, after all. Where we expect to see green rankings, when we get them, is with progressive leaderships at the municipal level. Yet there’s still serious lag going on in San Antonio (and Houston, and Dallas, and Austin, to a lesser degree), despite sincere efforts to catch up to and leap the pack, according to Clean Edge.
Top 10 placeholders in the city rankings (in order) are: San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, L.A., D.C., Sacramento, San Diego, Denver, Seattle, and Boston.
Austin was placed just outside in the 11 spot, followed by Dallas at 15 and Houston at 16. San Antonio appears further down the roster in position 42.
In the category-by-category breakdown, San Antonio peeks its head up with green buildings (39), while Austin, Houston, and Dallas ranked in the top 10, at 8, 9, and 10, respectively.
SA ranked 41 in advanced transportation, under Austin’s 18 (due, in part, to those 20,000 hybrid and electric vehicles on the road), despite more than 100 EV charging stations (right) here. Though we were above Houston’s 46.
It’s in the category of clean energy and carbon management, that tracks each metro area’s “electricity makeup, government participation in voluntary green power purchasing programs, and the carbon intensity of its local economy,” that our city starts to rise in the ranks. Here we gain a toehold at position 30. Still that doesn’t keep Dallas, Austin, and Houston from (curiously, perhaps) showing us up with 5, 7, and 8 position placings.
Of this grouping, the index report states:
These metros may not tap the cleanest electric grid, but each has a local government proactively purchasing green power and an economy driven by a relatively low-carbon infrastructure … resulting in a strong category performance.
In terms of venture capital in play, Austin again stands out as the fifth most invested city (per capita) in clean-tech pursuits, despite being only the 35th most populous city.
What hurts all the Texas cities is the high levels of emissions spewing from our industrial facilities (and perhaps the fact that SA, particularly, doesn’t outsource our coal plants to neighboring counties like some cities). Therefore, San Antonio boasts 11.02 metric tons of CO2 per city resident, according to the index. Houston (again) is worse, with 16.79 metric tons per capita.
While there will some bones to pick (compostable, naturally) at the end of the day, the unmistakable takeaway of these city rankings is that however hard cities like San Antonio squirm to reinvent themselves, the truly gamechanging strides are difficult to make without state leadership on board rowing in the same direction.
“In analyzing the clean-tech landscape of the U.S., it’s quite clear that leadership at the state and city level is inextricably linked,” the report’s authors state. It is no coincidence, in other words, that nine of the top 10 clean-tech leaders are in states that also place prominently themselves.
It may still be technically true what Mayor Castro said back in 2011. There may be “no single city or region that has captured the mantle of the new energy economy city.” However, for now, according to Clean Edge, the heavyweights are still conspicuous in their affection for all things Eureka State.
But if it’s also true that Castro’s June 16, 2011, speech marked “the beginning of San Antonio’s effort to be come the new-energy economy city,” the progress has been substantial. And with growing community interest, evidenced by this week’s food policy summit and a pending first-ever city-wide conference on climate change planned for the fall, Alamo City’s sustainable re-creation remains an endeavor worth watching and even fighting for.
For an update on San Antonio’s ranking, see “San Antonio’s Poor Clean-Tech Ranking Due to ‘Jockeying,’ Lost Data Set.”