Renewable energy solutions can help decarbonise cities: Report

Renewable power
Renewable power capacity worldwide will increase to 200 GW this year

New Delhi (NVI): The increase of renewable energy solutions can be the backbone of urban decarbonization efforts in the cities around the world, according to a new joint report.

The new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Climate Initiative (IKI) showed that, “Cities are responsible for over 70 per cent of total energy-related CO2 emissions and are increasingly relevant in addressing climate change, building a climate-resilient urban infrastructure on renewable energy.”

According to the UN estimates, cities will have to accommodate two-thirds of global population in a livable and low-carbon environment by the year 2050.

The report on the “Rise of renewables in Cities: Energy solutions for the urban future” shows that, “Integrating renewables into local energy systems has become part of the transformative action in many cities around the world. Still, their full potential remains untapped.”

Some 671 cities have set a renewable target and over half of them aim for 100 per cent renewables, most of the cities with targets are in Europe and North America.

An additional 2.5 billion people are expected to become urban dwellers in the next three decades, 90 per cent of them in Asia and Africa. Yet, cities in these regions are falling behind in renewable target setting, the new report shows, even more so as their energy demand is expected to grow, the report said.

Furthermore, the majority of large and mega cities that have set renewable energy targets have pursued only a modest share of renewables in their energy mix. Only the megacity of Los Angeles with 10 million inhabitants has a 100 per cent renewable target set for 2045.

Other megacities show much lower levels of ambition, with all but Sao Paolo and Shenzhen targeting renewable shares below 30 per cent. Only 4 cities in the population range of 5 to 10 million (Atlanta, Barcelona, Madrid and Toronto) and 33 cities in the population range of 1 to 5 million had targets for 100 per cent renewables.

The IRENA report said that, hydropower, bioenergy and waste-to-energy already play a significant role in urban decarbonization strategies. And the use of solar and geothermal energy in cities is rising while the ability to harness wind power within cities is progressing but remains marginal.

In view of the growing cooling demand in Africa and Asia, solar thermal energy in particular has the potential for gradually extending into the cooling sector, tripling from 2,000 to 6,000 terawatt hours by 2050.

The report also highlighted the importance of urban planning and developing smart grids through innovation and the adoption of enabling technologies such as electric vehicles, energy storage systems and intelligent energy management systems to facilitate the integration of renewables.

This means coupling the power, buildings, transport, heating and industry sectors to achieve higher system efficiency and enhance climate resilience, it added.