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Local government can play major role in promoting renewable energies

Every city in the world should undertake policy development to support the deployment of renewable energy, recommends a 200-page report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“It is within the powers of local government to influence the energy choices of their citizens” and many progressive municipalities “have already taken innovative decisions to enhance the deployment and use of renewable energy resources within their geographic boundaries,” notes the IEA in Cities, Towns & Renewables.

The report is designed to “inspire” local public and private officials “to gain a greater understanding of the potential for renewable energy, and to comprehend how its enhanced deployment could benefit local citizens and business.”

The document provides guidance to policy-makers at higher levels of government to incentivise local communities and to enable these policy-makers to “appreciate the role that local municipalities might play in increasing the deployment of renewable energy and moving further towards the desired transition from a fossil fuel future to a sustainable energy future,” it adds.

Local governments around the world have instigated policies which can be “easily adopted” by other local governments. The report provides case studies from municipalities with populations ranging from 1500 to 12.4 million, “to illustrate how policy development can impact on the deployment of renewable energy within territorial boundaries.”

“Cities tend to target a specific renewable energy resource that best suits their conditions,” from solar PV in low-latitude high-sunshine regions; geothermal power in cities located near tectonic plates; and bioenergy in areas with a nearby forest industry.

“In larger cities, only a portion of the total energy demand is likely to be met by renewable energy projects located within the city boundary,” the report finds, but renewable energy “could become a significant component of the total energy mix of a distributed energy system by employing new and improved small-scale technologies together with smart meters and intelligent grids.”

“The local approach to renewable energy project deployment can help to demonstrate what is possible, at what costs and who the winners and losers might be,” it adds. “Social experimentation relating to renewable energy deployment and climate change mitigation and adaptation can also be undertaken at the local level and, where successful, adopted nationally.”

Development of renewable energy deployment policies should be associated with energy efficiency measures, the report recommends. “Putting parallel policies in place to support the use of renewable energy by the local community usually makes good sense.”

“A wide range of policies is already evident for councils to select from, that will mead to greater renewable energy deployment,” it concludes. “None of these would suit all cities and tows, so careful evaluation is required to determine those most appropriate to local conditions.”

Cities with few pro-renewables policies in place should evaluate the policies of their peers which do, and determine whether similar benefits would accrue. “Support from citizens and local businesses for the greater deployment of renewable energy technologies is essential, based on a good understanding of the issues,” it adds.

“If each of the many successful renewable energy demonstration projects and innovative policies undertaken by leading cities as identified in this study, could be replicated one hundred-fold during the coming decade,” it states, “then cities could become facilitators of change in the energy sector.”

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