Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Profiles in Sustainable Cities – San Diego, California

San Diego, California - America's Finest City

Sustainable San Diego


Coronado Bridge, San Diego

Sustainable cities, like San Diego, have eco-city designs that prioritize the consideration of social, economic, and environmental impacts of climate mitigation policies and sustainability policies. Green cities also prioritize resilient, thriving urban habitats for existing residents.

Among the top of any list of these clean, green eco-cities is San Diego, California.

San Diego has a citywide 100% renewable energy (100RE) program, is implementing a zero waste plan, and is changing policy to have a majority of the city's public transit fleet be electric vehicles

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Sunset in San Diego

San Diego bills itself as “America’s Finest City”,  and a sustainability powerhouse. The city of San Diego is currently powered by about 40% renewable energy.

Factors leading to San Diego becoming a city with a 100% renewable energy goal include the higher-than-average amount of sunshine in the area, along with the consensus among city leaders to pursue sustainability as a top priority. 

Additionally, the state of California is making a push for clean energy throughout the state (California aims to reach 60% renewable energy by 2030, and California aims to be 100% carbon-free by 2045).

Sunny San Diego


San Diego Bay
San Diego Bay

San Diego is famous for its year-round mild climate, its bays and harbors, and its popular beaches.

The city is also known for its United States military ports and bases (especially for the Navy in downtown San Diego and for the Marines in Camp Pendleton, North San Diego County - but also for bases of other military branches).

In recent decades, San Diego has become increasingly internationally recognized for its emergence as a global center for clean energy, healthcare, biotechnology, and technological research & development.

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Coronado Bridge

The San Diego Convention Center, and hotels in Coronado, host many national and international conferences including; many medical conferences, Politifest, the Global Investment Forum, and the Food Waste Solution Summit.

There are also many smart tech and sustainability conferences put on by Cleantech San Diego. Cleantech San Diego is a non-profit trade organization and think-tank that promotes San Diego as a global leader in clean and sustainable technologies.  

"Cleantech San Diego is uniquely suited to support industry by fostering collaborations across the private-public-academic landscape, leading advocacy efforts to promote cleantech priorities, and encouraging investment in the San Diego region.” 

[quote from  -  Cleantech San Diego]

Smart Cities San Diego


Smart Cities San DiegoThe City of San Diego is a leader in sustainability. An organization that represents the city's substantial contribution to sustainability was launched by Cleantech San Diego in 2011 - Smart Cities San Diego.

Smart Cities San Diego is a public-private organization that advances sustainable, energy-efficient technological development throughout San Diego County, renewable energy technologies, and water efficiency.

Smart Cities San Diego also has initiatives to support greenhouse gas reduction and lower the carbon footprint of San Diego.

San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP)


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View of downtown San Diego

The push for 100RE is a major part of the San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP); adopted citywide in December 2015. San Diego was the first major city in the United States to commit to 100RE (San Diego's 100 RE goal is 2035).

San Diego’s CAP is billed as a continuing push to make San Diego, “America’s Finest City”, now also its most sustainable city. In the 2015 CAP, San Diego planned to eliminate half of all GHGs by 2035 (to reach 50% GHG reduction by 2035 compared to 2010 levels) from the city.

Now, with a 2022 update to the CAP, the goal is to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2035. San Diego also plans to run entirely on renewable energy by 2035.

The city had an interim goal of a 15% GHG reduction by 2020 - in fact, they got well above that mark - to a 24% GHG reduction citywide. Since 2020, San Diego has continued to rapidly reduce GHGs, on its path to net zero GHGs.

"[San Diego set] a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. The San Diego City Council approved the update 8-0 [on Aug. 2 2022, to support the City’s 2022 Climate Action Plan].

...The plan calls for phasing out 90% of fossil fuel use in buildings by 2035 through electrification, appliance swaps, working with San Diego Community Power to offer 100% renewable electricity for all customers in San Diego by 2030 and planning for and investing in a mobility network that shifts 50% of all trips to walking, biking or transit and reduces the overall need for vehicle use by 2035." 

[quote from  -]

San Diego's Zero Waste Goals, CAP Update, and Other Sustainability Goals


San Diego is moving ahead with its updated 2022 San Diego Climate Action Plan, including ambitious zero waste goals:

"Additional plans outlined in the update [in addition to net zero GHG emissions by 2035, and 100RE by 2030, in the updated San Diego CAP] include reducing and diverting at least 90% of waste away from the landfill by 2035, restoring 700 acres of wetlands and related habitats as carbon sink, and achieving 35% tree canopy coverage..." 

[quote from  -]

"The San Diego City Council recently adopted a zero waste plan that sets goals of 75 percent waste diversion by 2020; 90 percent by 2035, a goal consistent with the proposed Climate Action Plan; and zero waste by 2040."

[quote from  -]

Here’s the PDF for the full original 74-page San Diego Climate Action Plan that was adopted in December 2015:, (the San Diego CAP has been updated since passage, and some of those updates are reflected in this article), also see the updated 2022 San Diego Climate Action Plan

Here are a couple of excerpts from the original San Diego Climate Action Plan:

"The plan identifies steps the City of San Diego can take to achieve the 2035 [climate] targets. That list includes creating a renewable energy program, implementing a zero waste plan, and changing policy to have a majority of the City’s [public transit] fleet be electric vehicles...the city has committed to slashing its greenhouse gases 15% below 2010 levels by 2020 and 50% below that benchmark by 2035. The goals are intended to mirror the state targets of reducing emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.”

" 2016 the city had already cut its emissions by 19%, a 2% improvement from the previous year. The report largely attributed that progress to the state’s strict vehicle emissions standards and renewable energy requirements (for the city's utility, SDG&E)...” 

[quotes from  -  San Diego CAP 2016 PDF]

Sustainable Transit Initiatives in San Diego


San Diego Trolley, Harbor Dr., in front of the Convention Center

Public transportation options in San Diego include the MTS bus system, commuter rail (The Coaster), and light rail (The San Diego Trolley).

There is potential for further development of public mass transit and alternative transit like biking, walking, and electric micro-mobility in San Diego.

By focusing on developing, and increasing the use of, public transportation and sustainable alternative transit in San Diego, the city can most effectively reduce its carbon footprint. This is especially true of light rail in the city, which runs entirely on electricity. 

California mandates that every city in the state is to run on 100% clean energy by 2045. This is part of an effort by a bipartisan group within the state to have California make good on the state’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2045. 

San Diego is already committed to 100% renewable energy and seeks more than California’s GHG reduction goal - aiming for net zero GHGs by 2035

San Diego County already has a few cities in the county that have made 100RE pledges (The City of San Diego, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and Del Mar).

SDG&E and 100RE


The utility that is the lone energy provider to San Diego, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), is one of only several utilities nationwide to offer a 100RE option. San Diego’s sole utility (a de-facto monopoly), SD&E, offers an option for 50% or 100% solar energy as part of their “EcoChoice” plan.

The EcoChoice plan is offered straight from SDG&E, not a company providing the renewable energy service as an option for residents and businesses to the utility, an "aggregator” energy service.

Community Choice in San Diego

An alternative energy service to the utility (SDG&E) is an aggregator energy company; for example the statewide “Community Choice” program. Community Choice operates throughout California, including San Diego, and also offers 50% and 100% options to supply residents/ businesses with power from renewable energy, but SDG&E still provides the actual energy maintenance service.

Community Choice is similar to SDG&E’s “EcoChoice”, but the customer pays the private energy aggregator to generate renewable energy, while SDG&E still maintains the actual energy service.

Under Community Choice, for example, SDG&E still maintains the grid infrastructure, but instead of paying SDG&E for solar from exclusively large utility-scale solar farms, the customers pay Community Solar and support solar from a variety of local and state-wide renewable energy projects.

By paying SDG&E directly through EcoChoice, residents and businesses are paying the utility directly to generate renewable energy. Both services help support renewable energy. 

Additionally, see: Cleantech San Diego: Smart City


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Profiles in Sustainable Cities – San Diego, California 625

Profiles in Sustainable Cities – San Diego, California