Mayor Alan Webber of City of Santa Fe, New Mexico told the World Biogas Summit today (8th July) exactly how the sit obtained the first certified Green Bonds used in the State of New Mexico, to build an anaerobic digester CHP plant at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Integrated with a solar array, 94% of the facility’s energy needs are now met by renewables, helping both the City of Santa Fe itself and the wide world as it looks to build back greener from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Introducing the city, and its background, Mayor Webber, said “In Santa Fe, New Mexico, we’re 7000 feet up, we are a mountain city, but also a very dry city. And so, for decades, we’ve had a standing commitment to water conservation, to energy renewability, and now we are marshalling our resources when it comes to our waste and wastewater project.”

“So let me dip into that project, and tell you a little bit about how it happened. I think the key takeaways are, context matters enormously. You have to want to make a difference. You have to have a commitment to change and to have the overarching goal of achieving sustainability.”

“In 2019, the city of Santa Fe adopted an overarching sustainability mandate. Operating within that mandate, we are then seeking opportunities to seize the moment with specific projects, and that’s what happened with the resilience project that I want to talk to you about today.”

“The project really began as a specific opportunity when one member of our finance staff attended a conference on environmental social governance. In other words, socially responsible investing. They came back from that conference, really excited about the opportunity to link environmental sustainability with financial management to produce a green bond.”

“We did already know we needed to upgrade our digester, the project was prepared already, the work was underway simply to finance it in ordinary terms using ordinary financing, but based on the lessons learned at the conference, our staff member came back saying we had an opportunity to use a green bond to finance the upgrade to the digester.”

Mayor Webber explained how such feedback stuck the administration as a great opportunity to not only get financing, but to make a pollical and social statement about the City of Santa Fe’s values and its commitment to make a difference.

Discussing exactly how the project would operate, he continued, “The project won’t flare methane. It’ll use methane to power the digester, and we also are committed to implementing solar panels on the digester, so essentially it will be 94/95% renewable as a project.”

“We began with the specifics of the project, the technology, the opportunity, the need, the potential to transform waste into energy and resources. Our finance team, looking into the way in which green bonds would work, began to explore options and what it would take to become a certified green bond entity.” 

He continued, “We took the proposal through our city government and made the case that this really checked a lot of boxes simultaneously, it was good environmental policy, good technological policy, good water policy, good finance, good for our community.”

“After taking the project through our city council, we were able to go to market with it, and this is where the knowledge gained by our staff member really kicked in and made a huge difference.”

“We went through a certification process, we had to interact with folks in London to get that green certification, and then a climate bonds initiative was coupled to what we were doing and an international organisation evaluated our project, verified our team’s calculations for both the technology and the financial viability of the project, and that in fact, we would generate significant carbon savings by virtue of not flaring methane, not wasting it, but using it as an energy resource, burning it clean.”

“The net result was a project that is underway a little bit delayed by Covid because we’re using, again, global technology. A German firm needs to come to Santa Fe and evaluate and install all of the work that will ultimately produce this digester. So we’re really working on global sourcing financially, technologically, intellectual capital, political capital that is local to produce a very, very important project.

“It is the first green bond issued in the history of the state of New Mexico. It gives our community a sense of leadership and commitment that we’re putting our community resources to good use.”