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How is the World Approaching Urban Energy Planning?

A growing number of cities are using integrated approaches that harness a range of renewable energy sources for accelerating the energy transition. This shift can be seen as a move from a single-technology approach to a whole-systems approach to urban energy planning. Here’s how local authorities in parts of the world are working towards a shift towards a “clean” future.

Urban Energy Planning in Sydney

Sydney has developed a detailed strategy to tap into the city’s large potential for renewable heating and cooling and other distributed technologies. The city recently committed to procuring 100% of its electricity needs from local and regional renewable energy sources by 2020, a decade ahead of its original 2030 target. 
To accelerate the deployment of renewable power, it has harnessed local hydro and wind resources and invested in rooftop solar PV and solar thermal installations at more than 30 public facilities, including swimming pools, libraries and the city’s Town Hall. Sydney also has engaged with private sector partners to develop a large-scale battery storage system to improve the integration of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV and to supply this power during peak hours. 

In Burlington, USA

In 2014, Burlington in the U.S. achieved its 100% renewable electricity target, set three years prior. The success derived from a diverse mix of local energy resources, buying renewable energy certificates and facilitating the purchase of a local hydropower plant by the city’s municipal utility. In partnership with the utility, Burlington also has undertaken multiple initiatives to promote energy efficiency and to encourage the adoption of EVs. There is a special electricity rate for EV charging.
To increase the share of renewables in the heating sector, the city passed a resolution in April 2018 authorizing the development of a district heating network to serve local residents and businesses, using waste heat from a nearby biomass facility.

In Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town has taken several measures to increase the share of renewables in its power mix and to improve overall energy efficiency. In 2006, the city was a pioneer in signing South Africa’s first bilateral PPA with a local wind power project. To scale up distributed generation projects, Cape Town developed a small-scale generation programme that enables residential, commercial and industrial customers to generate their own electricity on-site from renewable technologies and to sell their surplus to the grid.
The city also has invested in four micro-hydropower turbines at its water treatment plants that supply 5% of the municipal government’s electricity demand.
In addition, Cape Town offers a marketing and accreditation programme for solar water heaters and is exploring the use of a special tariff category for EV charging to reduce transport-related emissions. 

In Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg has developed an integrated strategy that includes the use of a wide range of renewable technologies in an increasingly interconnected regional energy system. The city and surrounding areas already produce enough renewable power to meet around 160% of regional electricity demand (mainly from wind power projects along the coast), and plans are in place to expand wind power output threefold, linking the extra output to end-uses including heating, cooling, and electric and hydrogen-based mobility.
The local district heating network has been connected to electric heating technologies, enabling it to use surplus electricity from nearby renewable power projects. 

In Seoul, Republic of Korea

In Seoul, the metropolitan government has made rapid progress in improving energy efficiency and scaling up renewable energy. It has invested in district heating projects that provide heating and cooling to residents and businesses and has supported more than 200 MW of distributed solar PV in the city. The local government has established a special agency, Seoul Energy Corporation (SEC), to oversee implementation of the city’s energy policies. 
The development of renewables in the city is supported by national measures including a renewable energy mandate, a renewable fuel standard and a requirement that public buildings meet 30% of their electricity demand with on-site renewables by 2020. The SEC has increased the city’s EV procurement to 10,000 vehicles, offers a low-interest loan for EV purchases and provides dedicated charging facilities powered by solar PV to ensure that the vehicles can be charged using renewable power.

In Uppsala, Sweden

The municipality of Uppsala has a far-reaching strategy to make the city fossil fuel-free and to power it with 100% renewable electricity by 2030. A key focus is on using locally available renewable energy resources, including biomass and food waste, to transition to a more circular economy.
To achieve its objectives, the city has developed a biogas project using household organic waste, a biomass gasification project using forestry waste, and a range of solar PV projects. Uppsala aims to improve the flexibility of demand, both for electricity and for heating, to improve the integration of renewable sources into the energy system. 
Through an integrated approach to urban energy planning, ambitious targets can be converted into on-ground success.