How the biggest little city in the world is leading carbon transparency
Background & Goal:
With a population of over 235,000, Reno, The Biggest Little City in the World, is the largest city in Northern Nevada. Its proximity to Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada, and world-class ski facilities make it ideal for outdoor lovers. Yet, according to a study conducted by Climate Central, Reno’s temperatures are rising more quickly than any city in the United States since the 1970s, posing an existential threat to many of the attributes that make this community an oasis for its citizens and nature lovers from around the world.
In the face of this challenge, Reno has made sustainability a top priority and created a robust 2019-2025 Climate Action Plan, identifying nine sustainability objectives and setting a 2025 goal to reduce greenhouse gas emission in Reno by 28% from 2008 levels. Reno quickly realized the need for better data to implement effective carbon reduction initiatives. Common tracking methodologies based on emissions averages did not provide the strategic and operational insights required to reach these targets. They also were having trouble capturing their entire carbon footprint, across scopes 1, 2, and 3.
In 2021 the City of Reno partnered with nZero. Utilizing nZero’s best in class data and carbon management platform, Reno could capture, sync and automate real data about emissions across all city operations, related to all three scopes defined by the GHG Protocol. Because nZero connects directly to utilities, meters and other operational data sources, Reno was able to gain direct access to actual, first-party carbon data—allowing the city to confirm their carbon baseline and ensure they are on track to meet their 2025 goal.
With their emission data automated, housed, and accessed through one, easy to use platform, the City of Reno no longer spends countless hours pulling together data from disparate sources each year. City employees have instant, up-to-date data throughout the year, and they are able to focus their efforts on implementing more effective climate action.
On the electric side, 24/7 emissions tracking has allowed the City of Reno to understand their usage patterns, and how much they can change throughout the course of the day, month or season. They can also act on their emissions data immediately, no longer reliant on annual or monthly calculations to understand their Scope 2 emissions. This carbon transparency and accessibility is enabling them to implement meaningful change and track more aggressively against sustainability goals.
Working with nZero, the City of Reno was able to confirm their carbon baseline, understand their operational emissions, and identify areas to be more carbon efficient. Insights from nZero also allowed the city to quantify the value of its existing rooftop solar installations, and identify the optimal hours for charging the city’s electric vehicle fleet to reduce carbon intensity. The City is currently reviewing high-carbon activities and facilities and is more effectively implementing programs and operations that ensure that resources will be directed to projects that will have the greatest impact on the city’s footprint. Within two months of working with nZero, the City of Reno saw a 6.34% decrease in their emissions versus the same time period a year prior.
nZero also helped the city launch a Public Emissions Portal Opens in a new tab—giving residents and policy decision-makers unparalleled transparency of the city’s carbon emissions and their carbon reduction journey. The Public Emissions Portal has proved to be a powerful tool in helping spark public dialogue around sustainability initiatives and the City believes will help local organizations and nonprofits secure grants to continue the work towards reducing community-wide emissions.
As we near 2025, the City of Reno is confident they will hit their climate goals. They believe that their decarbonization learnings with nZero will not only benefit the city, but also inspire others. We are excited to help shape and share Reno’s carbon journey, as they lead in the fight against climate change.
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