A new report estimating energy usage in 3,649 cities has found that, while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, every city nevertheless has massive potential to cost-effectively increase the use of renewable energy at a local level.
Published on the sidelines of the Habitat III Conference in Quito by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy in Cities estimated the energy use in 3,649 cities which together account for 60% of global energy demand, while also exploring each city’s potential to scale-up renewable energy use by 2030. The study provides a vital insight into the role of one of the most intensive energy consumers, the urban area, which accounts for more than half the world’s population, 65% of global energy demand, and 70% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.
Cities therefore need to be leaders when it comes to transitioning to renewable energy, and working with industry and business to help their own transitions.
“Cities can play a transformative role in leading the world to a clean and sustainable energy future,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General. “We have to rethink the entire urban energy landscape, which requires rigorous planning and holistic decision-making. Renewable energy, combined with energy efficiency, will power the future growth of cities. We must ensure this transition happens as soon as possible.”
The transition is possible, and according to the report, could be extensive. However, it will vary greatly based on each city’s characteristics, and the political willpower to do so. The report highlights best practices for cities — what is possible and what policies are needed.
In addition to a city’s characteristics like population density, growth, and demand, it is important to look at whether a city is situated in a cold or hot climate, as all of these characteristics play a part in shaping the opportunities for renewable energy. A holistic approach is required to better incorporate the varied ways in which energy is used. Specifically, the report outlines three areas where cities can take action to scale up renewable energy use:
- Renewable energy in buildings (for heating, cooling, cooking, and appliances)
- Sustainable options for transport (electric mobility and biofuels)
- Creating integrated urban energy systems
“By 2050, urban populations are expected to double, making urbanisation one of this century’s most transformative trends,” said Mr. Amin. “Now is the time to grow with renewables, leapfrog dirty technology, and create cities of the future that people are proud to call home.”