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Planning 100% Renewable Energy Urban Cities

Planning 100% Renewable Energy Urban Cities


Published on December 14, 2020

December 2020

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Discussing the transition to renewable energy in cities, Dr. Christina Hoicka and Jessica Conroy recently published a new report outlining the approaches to achieve 100% renewable energy in urban cities. The authors are one of 5 inaugural Critical Perspectives in Global Health seed grant recipients given by the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research.


Transitioning to renewable energy is understood as an effective strategy to stay within 1.5°C average global temperature rise (IEA, 2017). Cities occupy two percent of the world’s landmass in size, consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy demand, and account for over 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions (C40 Cities, 2019a). Technologically, it can be difficult to transition to a significant share of renewable energy in cities. Energy demand is expected to grow, particularly in urban centers and renewable energy power generation requires more land compared to traditional, centralized thermal generation (Hoicka & MacArthur, 2019). This study investigates the status of renewable energy transitions in urban cities, and how to achieve 100% renewable energy in urban cities. The study documents urban cities currently achieving or planning to achieve 100% renewable energy, each city’s current stage of the local energy planning process, and investigates the proposed solutions in city plans including policy instruments, technological and innovative solutions and stakeholders involved to achieve 100% renewable energy urban cities. Globally, 276 urban cities were found to have committed to or achieved various levels of 100% renewable energy; no ‘urban city’ has successfully achieved 100% renewable energy or carbon neutrality city-wide; and 17 urban cities have achieved 100% renewable electricity. Over half of the commitments have not developed a plan yet, and only six urban cities have adopted plans towards 100% renewable energy city-wide (Paris, Malmö, Frankfurt, Saanich, Vancouver, Victoria). Of these six cities’ plans, many include reducing energy demand, and adding local, on-site, or neighbourhood scale energy generation. None of the urban cities’ high power densities of demand can be met with renewable energy production within the city alone. Benefits and motivations will not be entirely local. The cities will work with other neighbouring municipalities, levels of government, and stakeholders outside the city to achieve 100% renewable energy. The three Canadian (BC) plans rely on the centralized regional utility for importing electricity, the European plans rely on a decentralized approach, focusing on neighbouring authorities. Surprisingly, none of the plans discuss the need for access roads, transmission right-of-way, and buffer zones in their plans despite needing to import energy. Read the full report (PDF).


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