Why cities, towns and regions are creating a roadmap towards 100% renewable energy

Tackling the climate emergency – a security, socioeconomic and environmental crisis – requires the unprecedented transformation of energy systems and an immediate transition to renewable energy across all sectors.

Rohit Sen, Senior Officer, Renewable Energy

For a perspective on why cities and regions are going renewable and what a roadmap to 100% renewables looks like at the subnational level, we talked to Rohit Sen, Renewable Energy Senior Officer at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

Sen also digs into what is needed to kick-start the energy transition and how the 100% Renewables Roadmap Cities and Regions project will show how it can be done, especially in the global south. Here’s what he had to say:

Why is the transition to renewable energy so critical?

Rohit Sen: Looking around, is there anything we can do without electricity? Education, healthcare, productive work of almost any kind – everything requires electricity. The swift transition to renewables is a must for a sustainable future. With the current climate crisis every nation, city, region and individual must get on the road to carbon neutrality or zero-emissions, and we can’t get there without renewable energy. Achieving 100% renewables is one of the central pillars needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement, reach zero-emissions and ensure a livable future.

How do we kick-start this transition around the world?

Sen: Tackling the climate emergency requires coordinated action across all sectors and levels of government. It only takes a few countries, cities and regions to kickstart a transition towards 100% renewable energy and a decarbonization revolution. The key ingredients will be strong political will and active governmental commitment to set in motion the kind of transformations that will be necessary to keep global heating below 2 degrees Celsius, ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius over its pre-industrial levels, as laid out by the Paris Agreement.

Some cities and regions have already committed themselves to 100% renewable energy targets and these cities and regions can serve as examples for other subnational governments. However, the energy landscape is highly varied around the world and achieving 100% renewables looks different for every city, town or region. For example, the IRENA Coalition for Action’s definition of 100% renewable energy points out that “renewable energy can either be produced locally to meet all local end-use energy needs… or can be imported from outside of the region using supportive technologies and installations.” 100% renewables looks different everywhere, and that’s why we are working with nine cities, three each in Argentina, Indonesia and Kenya, to develop strategy and action plans that map the local renewable energy potential and set a roadmap according to local needs and potential.

How will you work with participating cities and regions to break down this ambitious goal of 100% renewable energy?

Sen: While local and regional governments are increasingly taking leadership in defining ambitious targets and implementing sustainable, low-to-no emission and resilient development of their cities, towns and regions, national governments play a critical role in creating the enabling framework conditions to support this local action. This means that solid partnerships and coordinated efforts are a key element in working rapidly towards 100% renewable energy.
100% renewable energy can’t be achieved overnight, so therefore a lot of strategic planning and coordination between various levels of government and relevant stakeholders need to happen. The roadmap for 100% renewables will be a phased progression over the course of next few years, with a mix of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency measures, energy storage solutions and funding available for bankable renewable projects.
Additionally, transparent and well-defined targets and their effective implementation support development of a 100% renewable energy system. Transparency and effective implementation help drive higher investment in renewable energy. Integration of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems can also accelerate the transformation of the energy systems.

What are the opportunities and benefits of renewable energy for these cities and regions?

Sen: The cost-competitiveness of renewable energy and its associated socio-economic and environmental benefits have become key drivers and motivations for cities and regions, and for establishing a roadmap for 100% renewable energy.

This project will allow cities and regions to unlock one of the largest potential solutions for GHG emission reduction – taking the city and/or region towards carbon neutrality and driving sustainable economic growth by reducing oil and gas imports and fiscal deficits while boosting foreign currency reserves and local job creation. It will also allow cities and regions to increase energy security and realize various social, health and governance benefits.

How do you see the 100% Renewables Cities and Regions Roadmap project supporting the transition to 100% renewable energy?

This project facilitates the energy transition by raising local awareness on renewable energy sources, showcases how local and national governments can create coordinated enabling frameworks and policies, creates access to public and private sector finance, and builds local renewable energy projects that address electricity and heating and cooling.

This project will demonstrate the importance of vertical integration, both top down and bottom-up and show how local goals can feed into a particular country’s climate goals, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We hope that the project will foster multilevel governance, and put that collaboration at the heart of the sustainable energy transition.

Learn more about the 100% Renewables Cities and Regions Roadmap project.