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Global cities increasingly turning to renewable energy
March 3, 2018, 3:04 pm

More than a 100 cities around the world now obtain their power mainly from renewable energy sources, and many of these cities are also home to large populations, says a new report released ahead of the 'Cities and Climate Change Conference' slated to take place in Edmonton, Canada from 5 to 7 March.

The report, published by the 'Carbon Disclosure Project' (CDP), shows that increasing number of global cities are racing ahead with the transition to renewable energy, overcoming obstructions erected by entrenched vested interests, including the fossil-fuel industry and its proponents.

The CDP, which runs the global disclosure system that enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impacts, show that 102 cities around the world are now sourcing at least 70 percent of their electricity needs from renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, biomass and hydropower. Even more encouragingly, the figures reveal a doubling in number of such cities from just a few years ago.

With the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world, the CDP figures are very positive, as they include many cities with large populations, such as Seattle, Vancouver, Oslo, Auckland and Nairobi. In addition, the analysis showed that 43 cities had now reached the astounding feat of running on 100 percent renewable energy, including the cities of Reykjavik in Iceland and Basel in Switzerland, both of which benefit from high levels of hydropower or geothermal. Burlington in the US state of Vermont also gets all its electricity from wind, solar, biomass and hydropower.

Director of Cities at CDP, Kyra Appleby, said that the figures were important given that cities are responsible for over two-thirds of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. “Cities house half the world’s population but represent almost two-thirds of global energy demand and account for 70 percent of carbon emissions from the energy sector.

“Of the 570 plus global cities reporting to CDP, over 100 now get at least 70 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind. We expect to see even more cities targeting a clean energy future. Cities not only want to transition to renewable energy but, most importantly, as our data shows, they can,” said Ms. Appleby. 

By reporting to CDP cities can better understand their impact, share knowledge and best practice, and use the information gathered to set ambitious renewable energy targets. “We urge all cities to disclose to us, work together to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and prioritize the development of ambitious renewable energy procurement strategies. The time to act is now,” she added.

Speaking ahead of the conference, the Mayor of the US City of Burlington, Miro Weinberger, said “We have seen first-hand that renewable energy boosts our local economy and creates a healthier place to work, live, and raise a family. We encourage other cities around the globe to follow our innovative path as we all work toward a more sustainable energy future”.

The CDP data shows that 275 cities are reporting using hydropower, 189 are harnessing wind and 184 are benefiting from solar photovoltaics; an additional 164 use biomass and 65 geothermal.

The global thrust for renewable energy sources is challenging the deep-rooted dominance of fossil fuel producers around the world. India’s behemoth fossil fuel producer and the world’s largest coal producing company, Coal India, has admitted that renewable sources could soon become the dominant energy supplier in India.

In a policy document titled ‘Coal Vision 2030’, the company outlined the key challenges that could impact Coal India and the industry over the next decade. It conceded that development of solar PV and energy storage, as well as the continued slump in global coal consumption would dent its overwhelming dominance of the energy sector in the coming years.

Though the policy paper viewed coal demand within India to still remain strong as the country’s economy grows, it nevertheless cautioned that India’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement to curb carbon emissions and the rapid growth in renewable forms of energy threatened to topple the dominant role of coal in the energy sector.

Summarizing on what the coal industry might look like in 2030 and how it could respond to new forces in the market, the policy paper points out that strong current growth and continued government support to ambitious renewable energy targets, could see renewable energy and new storage forms emerging as key substitutes to fossil fuels. It is clear that the coal industry will need to implement cleaner and more efficient technologies in the extraction and production of coal, not only to boost its green credentials but also to remain competitive against the onslaught from renewable forms of energy.

The Indian Government aims to triple the amount of renewable energy capacity over the next four years alone, totaling a huge 175 gigawatts (GW). Solar has also grown by 200 percent in two years, adding 8GW with much more to come. Advancements in energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs) are also predicted to change India’s energy landscape into the 2020s. While current sales of EVs in the country remain at a low base, the state is pushing for faster adoption of this technology; it hopes that 16 million EVs will be on the roads by 2020.In addition, new government initiatives targeting commercial buildings and households are starting to effect energy demand, reducing the ‘electricity intensity’ of GDP from 1.8 to 1.2 percent in the last fiscal year.


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