Building Sustainable Cities

29 October 2015| Articles

From 1900-2011, the world’s population in cities grew from 220 million to 3.53 billion. This phenomenon of urbanisation has focused attention on the development of cities and, moreover, their sustainable development. The growth of cities is strongly linked to the global challenges of environmental sustainability. With 75 per cent of global energy consumption and only two per cent of global land use, cities provide both an opportunity and challenge for accelerating the deployment of renewables. Limited space means that renewables should be introduced in conjunction with energy efficiency measures and that options for renewables in the cities’ outskirts should be explored.

The role of cities for the deployment of renewables will become only stronger in the foreseeable future. The urban population is projected to increase from 52 per cent in 2010 to 60 per cent in 2030, adding an additional 1.4 billion people to cities, which means that an estimated 71 million people will be added to the urban population with each year. For megacities that have more than 10 million inhabitants, energy infrastructures should be cost-effective and reliable, and this poses a challenge especially for Asia, which already hosts 23 out of the 36 megacities in the world.

It is in this context that IRENA hosts a roundtable event in Singapore this week, which builds upon its work on cities over the last few years. IRENA has identified seven priority areas for action to ensure that renewables are integrated into cities. These include:

1) the integration of renewables in low-energy buildings,

2) support for renewables for heating and cooling,

3) the creation of local power grids for renewables integration,

4) support for electric mobility,

5) assessment of local usage of cooking fuels and waste,

6) the integration of renewables into the cities’ sustainability agenda, and

7) the creation of dedicated financing mechanisms for renewable energy projects in cities.

The event provides a platform for sharing best practices in priority areas for building sustainable cities, assessing and discussing their relevance for Asia and for setting the agenda for future action. The IRENA Roundtable is taking place during the Singapore International Energy Week from 26-30 October and this year’s theme is “Global Energy Transitions”. The host country Singapore is already playing a leading role in transforming and creating liveable and sustainable cities and will also be organising the World Cities Summit from 10-14 July 2016.

Read more about IRENA’s past work on cities:

Doubling the global share of renewable energy by 2030: The Role of cities

Renewables for Cities in Africa: A roadmap from 2012 to 2050

Renewables for Resilient Cities: A roadmap from 2012 to 2050