Solar bridge, Bonn, Germany

Why are cities setting 100% renewable energy targets?

Over the last decades cities, towns and regions in different continents and of different sizes have been setting ambitious renewable energy (RE) targets that help driving the transition towards a sustainable and renewable energy future while delivering multiple benefits to the local communities.

Adopting RE targets helps local governments legitimize the further allocation of resources to implement related actions. This is well illustrated by the reporting cities in the carbonn® Climate Registry (cCR), a global reporting platform for local climate action. Indeed, cities that have renewable energy targets report on average twice as many RE actions than cities that do not have such targets.

The reasons motivating cities to set ambitious renewable energy targets are very diverse. Typically, they include a mix of anticipated socio-economic and environmental benefits. Examples come from local and subnational governments in numerous countries such as Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States, to name only a few. The cities listed below offer some examples of the diversity of these reasons.

  • The City of Vancouver, Canada, is committed to reach community-wide 100% renewable energy by 2050. Prior to this decision, the City had already committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 2007 levels before 2050. Reaching 100% RE will help the city achieve this objective while contributing to the implementation of Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan.
  • The City of Malmö, Sweden, committed to reaching 100% RE in local government operations by 2020 and 100% RE at community-scale by 2030. In Malmö, the Western Harbor area has already been supplied by 100% renewable electricity for 15 years. The city collaborated closely with the developers and the residents to help redevelop this urban area, combining social and energy innovation for the project, which resulted in local employment opportunities and improved community cohesion.
  • The City of Växjö, Sweden, now committed to reach 100% renewable energy at community-scale by 2030, first approved a fossil fuel-free target in order to reduce air pollution and fossil fuel imports while keeping money in the community and stimulating the local economy.
  • Setting ambitious renewable energy targets is also an opportunity to generate additional income. For example, Inje County, Republic of Korea, which committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2045, reports stable tax revenue from renewable energy facilities already installed within its territory, including wind power and mini-hydropower which generate 570,000 USD and 190,000 USD per year respectively.
  • Energy security can also be an important driver as demonstrated by Pingtung County, Taiwan. Following Typhoon Morakot in 2009, the deadliest recorded typhoon to impact Taiwan, Pingtung now aims to ensure the community can be energy self-sufficient in the event of a main power grid failure and is now exploring a 100% RE pathway.
  • In 2012, only 7.6 % of the 135,000 households in the Kasese District, Uganda had access to the national electricity grid. The transition to 100% RE is seen as a solution to boost energy access in the region in order to improve living standards, increase public health and further develop the local economy.

These examples show the wide range of topics impacted by the transition to renewable energy. It also shows the many levers local governments can use to support this transition. Indeed, once the targets set, local governments need to take action to fulfill their commitments.

They can act by using their urban policy, planning and regulatory mandates, through ownership and control of municipal infrastructure but also as consumers of renewable energy, by empowering their communities and as advocates and facilitators of finance. All these possible levers are illustrated in the actions reported in the cCR, a powerful tool to help local governments track their progress on climate action.

The number of cities engaging on the path to 100%RE keeps increasing. This encouraging trend demonstrates the potential of local governments to take climate action and help national governments achieve the targets set by recently adopted global frameworks such as the Paris Agreement.

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The Global 100% Renewable Energy Cities and Regions Network brings together leading cities, towns and regions that are driving the transition towards 100% Renewable Energy, in a global community of practice to facilitate peer-learning and accelerate progress.

It contributes to the Global 100% RE Campaign, a global multistakeholder movement striving towards 100% renewable energy, supporting international dialogue and the development of methodologies to define, monitor and verify 100% RE.

To learn more about the contribution and impacts of local and subnational governments in the transition to a sustainable and renewable energy future as recorded through the cCR read this blog post.