November 16, 2018

Mayor Emanuel Announces Launch of the Chicago Renewable Energy Challenge

Innovative Program Extends the City’s Renewable Energy Commitment to Private Sector Buildings throughout Chicago

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced the launch of the first-of-its-kind Chicago Renewable Energy Challenge with seven founding members. The Renewable Energy Challenge is a voluntary leadership effort to accelerate the installation of renewable energy in commercial and institutional properties across the City. The initiative builds upon the City’s commitment to using 100% renewable energy to power all City buildings by 2025.

“We are proud of our pledge to use 100% clean energy for municipal facilities, and now we are extending a challenge to the private sector to do the same,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Chicago is not only leading by example, but doing its part to work with our business community to drive down harmful carbon pollution while supporting clean energy jobs for the 21st century.”

Members of the Renewable Energy Challenge have committed to achieving 100% renewable energy to power one or more participating buildings in Chicago by 2035 or sooner. Once 100% of electricity use is covered by renewable energy generation, members also commit to maintain it for at least 10 years. Additionally, members have committed to tracking and sharing their progress and serving as an ambassador for renewable energy to other organizations. The Challenge encourages investments in on-site renewable energy as well as participation in the statewide program for community solar. A portion of the commitment can be met by investing in off-site renewable energy installations.

“As the first and only restaurant company to set a verified target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our restaurants, offices and supply chain, we are committed to doing our part as a leader in carbon reduction for Chicago, as a key part of McDonald’s climate goals involve the use of renewable energy,” said Francesca DeBiase, Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer, McDonald’s Corporation. “We applaud the overall goal of Chicago’s Renewable Energy Challenge and are pleased to be a Founding Member, alongside other notable businesses, in an effort to support renewable energy generation across multiple sectors.”

By joining the Renewable Energy Challenge, founding members collectively commit to reducing a total of 184.5 million kilowatt-hours per year. That is the equivalent of taking nearly 30,000 cars off the road, enough electricity to power over 20,000 homes for one year, or 300,000 barrels of oil.

“A healthier, more sustainable future will require greater investment in renewable energy, which is why we invested in an Illinois wind farm in 2014 and have grown our investments in renewable energy globally to more than 1.2 gigawatts in three continents today. We’re proud to join the City of Chicago and other leaders on this important initiative” said Adam Hecktman, Microsoft’s Director of Technology & Civic Innovation for Chicago.

The Renewable Energy Challenge is modeled after Retrofit Chicago, a voluntary leadership program focused on improving energy efficiency. Since February, five new participants have joined Retrofit Chicago, bringing the total number of members to 90 properties spanning over 57 million square feet. Participants commit to a 20% energy reduction within five years of joining. The members have now collectively achieved a 17% energy reduction, saving over $11 million on annual energy costs. A third of the 90 buildings have reached their 20% energy reduction, and one property recently achieved a 35% reduction.

Founding Members of the Chicago Renewable Energy Challenge include:

  • Karen Marie Salon
  • Loyola University
  • McDonald’s
  • Microsoft
  • Northwestern University
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • The University of Illinois at Chicago

New Members of the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge include:

  • 150 North Wacker Drive
  • 181 West Madison
  • Adler Planetarium
  • American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Headquarters
  • Richard J. Daley Center

The Renewable Energy Challenge will continue to build on the leadership position Mayor Emanuel has taken on climate change locally and nationally. In 2017, Mayor Emanuel committed the city to using 100 percent renewable energy in all municipal facilities. The Mayor also signed an Executive Order committing the City to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. In December 2017, the City of Chicago hosted the North American Climate Summit which launched the Chicago Climate Charter, a first-of-its-kind international charter on climate change. Recently, Chicago was ranked as the nation's greenest city by the Green Building Adoption Index for the second year in a row, with 70 percent of its space green certified and became one of the first cities in the world to achieve LEED for Cities Platinum Certification, the highest level of certification available from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Chicago was also the first major city to receive the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award from the US EPA.

More information about the Chicago Renewable Energy Challenge and Retrofit Chicago can be found at: and