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Mayor Jon Mitchell speaks at the United States Conference of Mayors annual meeting. COURTESY PHOTO

By Sandy Quadros Bowles | Posted Jun. 24, 2016 at 7:33 PM

NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford was in the national spotlight Friday as the city received a first place award for its energy and climate protection efforts at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Indianapolis.

The award “really speaks to New Bedford’s re-emergence as a leading city in the Northeast,’’ Mayor Jon Mitchell said in a telephone interview shortly after he received the award from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, president of the United States Conference of Mayors.

The award honors the city’s energy and climate protection efforts.

On a per capita basis, New Bedford has more installed solar capacity than any city in the continental United States, with 16 megawatts of solar projects to provide power for municipal facilities, which Mitchell said will “save residents of the city many millions of dollars over the next 20 years.’’

Information from conference representatives also cited the city’s conversion of its municipal fleet to electric vehicles and projects now in place to give the city a prominent role in the offshore wind industry.

“Being recognized as a national leader in addressing global problems puts New Bedford in a different light,’’ Mitchell said. “We want to be seen as a leader and not as a follower.’’

The honor, he said, shows the city is “capable of solving its own problems and being a strong example.’’

The award carries a $15,000 cash prize to be awarded to a local non-profit related to the energy issue. Details of that award will be announced at a later date.

Mitchell serves as chairman of the energy committee of the conference, a non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

He said that as state and federal resources dwindle, “cities around the world are taking responsibility for themselves in ways they haven’t in a generation.’’

Follow Sandy Quadros Bowles on Twitter @SandyBowlesSCT.

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