Consisting of up to 65 percent of the global energy consumption and 70 percent of all the anthropogenic carbon emissions, IRENA says cities must rise up to the occasion in playing a vital role in making the shift to a low-carbon economy.
The latest report from IRENA is majorly centered on the best practices garnered from thousands of cities across the globe that make up 60% of the world energy demand, and clearly shows what is possible as well as policies required to ensure the change.
“We have to rethink the entire urban energy landscape, which requires rigorous planning and holistic decision-making,” stated Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General
“Renewable energy, combined with energy efficiency, will power the future growth of cities. We must ensure this transition happens as soon as possible.”
One of the keys to a successful transformation is better understanding of how energy is consumed within urban centers. Ideally, a plan that works for one city may not really work in another because of the differences in usage. For instance, cities situated in areas with cool climates experience a greater heating load compared to those in warmer regions.
Population density is also a crucial factor. Highly populated cities are more ideal for electric public transit systems that are powered by renewables, while the low density cities with bigger rooftop areas may possibly benefit from solar panels technologies as well as enhanced growth of electric cars. Both hot water and rooftop solar systems are generally easy to install and offer consumers significant economic gains.
The report further indicates that even though most energy policies are decided at the national level, city governments are better placed to customise realistic renewables energy strategies suited to their specific local circumstances.
A good example took place recently closer home (although the IRENA report does not mention it) in South Australia. The City Council of Adelaide is powering ahead with plans to turn its CBD into a carbon neutral area by 2025; integrating a set of remarkable initiatives and incentives to encourage South Australians to invest in solar power, battery storage and other related technologies.
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A replica of the same initiative across the Adelaide metropolitan area would definitely have a huge positive impact; reducing emissions, delivering affordable energy and creating more jobs.
“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.”
The report, “Renewable Energy In Cities” can be downloaded or viewed in full here (PDF).