Cities and municipal renewable policy overviews

Globally, the energy consumptions by major cities, in both emerging economies and developed countries, have been rising. An important city energy development is that the share of the world’s energy consumption by cities has risen to 65% of the global energy demands recently. This has represented an increase of over 140%, up from their 45% share in 1990. Hence, renewable policy developments by cities and municipalities have major impacts on global renewable developments, especially for the emerging economies.

Globally, many countries have committed to achieve a 100% renewable energy target at a national level. The numbers of major cities around the world committing to 100% renewable energy targets or transitioning to 100% renewable energy in their electricity uses has been continuing to rise. Good examples included the Australian Capital Territory, Calgary in Canada, Tokyo in Japan,

Cape Town in South Africa and New York in the United States. These cities have all established significant and ambitious renewable targets and clean energy transition plans.

Municipal policy makers have been playing increasingly important roles in promoting the use of renewable energy in their cities. In the first place, more and more local policy makers have been setting new targets and enacting new policies to advance renewable applications in their cities. Secondly, the rising city populations and increasing urbanisation have resulted in greater energy demands, especially for renewable energy services in municipalities. Thirdly, many cities have been promoting the use of clean renewable energy through the use of their unique purchasing and regulatory authorities.

Leading cities around the world have been collaborating to achieve their renewable energy and climate mitigation goals. A good example is the C40 Cities initiative which has brought together the leaders of 90 world’s largest cities, so they can discuss and launch pathways for cities to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy has attracted another 600 members in 2016, especially from emerging economies. This has increased the total number of signatories to more than 7,200 communities with a combined population of 225 million citizens around the world, covering both developed countries and emerging economies. Specific cities globally have also committed to increase their energy efficiency and renewable energy deployments so as to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030. With the cities globally accounting for some 65% of the global energy consumptions, these improvements by the leading cities will have major impacts on global energy improvements and rising renewable deployments.

At the COP22 meeting in Marrakech in late 2016, local and city leaders from 114 countries globally, covering both developed countries and emerging economies, have jointly launched the Marrakech Roadmap for Action. This should help to mobilise the financing needed to make renewable energy infrastructure investments in cities around the world. At COP22, a new Covenant of Mayors in sub-Saharan Africa was launched to catalyse municipal-level action on energy access and climate change mitigation and adaptation in Africa. At the Habitat III conference in late 2016, some countries around the globe adopted the New Urban Agenda. This should help to establish a roadmap for guiding sustainable urban development over the next 20 years. These initiatives have helped cities around the world, especially those in the emerging economies, to develop and adopted their own unique commitments and strategies for renewable energy deployment (UN, COP22 Marrakech Roadmap for Action, 2016).

It should be recognised that each major city around the world has a unique pattern of energy use and residential profile. These will create their own unique challenges and opportunities for the city policy makers. A good example is that major cities such as New York in the United States, London in the United Kingdom and Seoul in the Republic of Korea have been using much of their energy in their buildings and transport sectors. However, other major cities in Asia, including Shanghai in China and Kolkata in India, have large industrial sectors which have been accounting for the majority of their energy uses (REN, Global Status Report, 2018).

Globally, the number of major cities which have committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy in total energy use or in their electricity sector has continued to grow. Good city examples included the Australian Capital Territory which had set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020. In the USA, Boulder in Colorado, Salt Lake City in Utah, St Petersburg in Florida, and San Diego and San Francisco in California have all adopted new city targets to achieve 100% renewable energy. Some leading cities have claimed that they have already achieved their 100% clean renewable energy goals. Good examples included Burlington and Vermont in the USA plus more than 100 communities in Japan.

Some other leading cities globally have also been studying how they can move towards 100% renewable energy. A good example is that Los Angeles, the second largest US city, has directed its municipal utility companies to investigate how they can reduce their fossil fuel consumption and transition onto 100% renewable electricity.

Some leading cities globally have committed to new energy transformation targets with partial renewable energy transitions. Good examples included Tokyo in Japan which has committed to meeting 30% of their future electricity demand with renewables by 2030. In South Africa, Cape Town and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality have both set new goals to source up to 20% and 10% of their renewable electricity, respectively, by 2020, so as to increase their clean energy uses and improve energy security.

Some leading cities have established new targets for renewable energy storage. Good examples included New York City, California and Massachusetts in the USA which had established new city targets for renewable energy storage. New York City in the USA had set new renewable targets to have 1 GW of solar power capacity by 2030 and 100 MWh of energy storage by 2020.

A number of cities have established their renewable energy targets through the carbon» Climate Registry (cCR). This is a new global platform which had been designed for cities to publicly and regularly report their climate actions. The cCR had registered over 230 renewable energy city targets including 36 commitments to 100% renewables, from various major cities in developed countries and emerging economies.

Municipal government leaders have various specific powers that they can use to promote renewable energy applications and purchases. Good examples included the specific municipal authorities to set local building codes, mandate the use of solar water heaters, enact new energy efficiency standards and new city regulations plus mandate the collection of energy sector data, improve future city energy plannings, etc.

Many municipal and city agencies have been making use of their purchasing and regulatory authorities to accelerate renewable deployments within their jurisdictions. Government purchasing authorities have the power to procure renewable power and equipment for municipal applications. Good examples included the installation of new solar panels on municipal buildings

Renewable policy development management 121 plus the phased changing out of public transportation bus fleets to clean fuel buses or electric buses in many cities in emerging economies and developed countries globally.

Two good city examples are Santa Monica and San Francisco in the USA. Santa Monica in California, USA had mandated the installation of solar PV rooftop systems for all new buildings. They have also passed a new city regulation which required all new single-family homes to qualify as zero net energy homes. This meant that these new homes should only consume as much energy as they produce, resulting in net energy outputs. San Francisco in the USA had mandated the use of solar energy, covering both solar PV and solar thermal heating systems, for all new commercial and residential buildings. It had become the largest city in the United States, as well as the first city in California, to institute a municipal mandate on the deployment of solar thermal systems.

Some cities have linked renewable energy to their district heating and cooling networks. A good example is that Oslo in Norway has committed to phasing out fossil fuel heating in homes and offices in favour of renewable heating systems by 2020. New York City in the USA has mandated the blending of biodiesel into heating oil with rising shares to 2034. The shares of biodiesel have increased from 2% in 2016 to 5% by October 2017, and will be required to increase to 10% by 2025 and 20% by 2034. New York City has also, via the NYC Retrofit Accelerator, encouraged fuel switching away from natural gas for heating and hot water generation to favour heat pumps and biofuel applications. In addition, the NYC officials have been providing relevant information to consumers plus providing access to both public and private financing for renewable applications.

In the municipal transport sector, many cities have also been applying their power to accelerate the transition of their transportation systems to clean renewable low-carbon transportations. A good example is that Oslo in Norway has pledged to power all its public buses with renewable energy by 2020 as part of the city’s “climate budget.” Reykjavik in Iceland had set a goal to fuel all the public and private vehicles in the city with renewable energy by 2025. Sacramento County in California had begun fuelling its liquefied natural gas trucks with biogas. In Mumbai in India, the ethanol import tax was eliminated in an effort to better align with its desires for increased national ethanol use and to reduce environment pollutions in the city.

In the municipal aviation transport sector, there have been various developments in bio-jet fuels. A good example is that Seattle’s publicly operated Seattle Tacoma Airport in the USA has become the first airport in the world to provide airport-wide access to bio-jet fuels.

Renewable policy case study: UK clean energy policy and energy transformation

The United Kingdom (UK) has enacted and implemented various new climate change and clean energy policies. These have resulted in significant energy transformation in the UK from fossil fuel to clean renewable energy over the last tenyears. A good example is that a decade ago, coal-fired power plants have generated almost a third of the UK’s electricity. Under various new government energy policies, there have been large reductions in electricity generation by coal in the UK. In the first half of 2019, coal-fired power stations have only provided 3% of UK’s electricity requirements. In 2019, the UK also reached a record stretch of consecutive 18 coal-free days which ended on 4 June. These coal-free days in the UK have effectively prevented 5 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere (Guardian, UK, June 2019).

Looking ahead, experts have predicted that the UK will be left with only five remaining coal-fired power plants by 2020. These major reductions in coal-fired power plants are in line with the UK government plans to phase out all coal-fired power generation by 2025.

In the same period, clean renewable energy has gone from supplying just 2% of the UK’s power to a fifth, about 25%, of all electricity produced. This represented a significant increase, of about ten times growth, for renewable energy applications. The UK National Grid is also spending around £1.3 billion a year (USD1.63 billion/year) to adapt the UK national electricity grid network to accept variable renewable energy electricity supplies from renewable power generators.

Zero-carbon energy sources have been predicted, by energy experts, to overtake fossil fuels as the UK’s largest electricity source over a full calendar year. Energy experts have said that 2019 will likely be the first year that fossil fuels would make up less than half of the electricity generated in the UK. This has mainly resulted from a dramatic decline in coal-fired power generation, together with rising renewable and low-carbon energy consumptions.

Looking ahead, UK homes and businesses will be relying more on clean electricity generated by wind farms, solar panels, hydropower and nuclear power reactors in future. So the predicted “landmark energy tipping point” by the end of 2019 will be a particularly important achievement by the UK government new energy policies and energy transition plans for the UK to become a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 (Guardian, UK, June 2019).

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