A new report has revealed that 101 major cities around the world, from the developed world through to low-income nations, now get the majority – at least 70 percent – of their electricity from renewable energy sources, as of 2017.
Compiled by the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), a non-profit environmental impact agency, it notes that the diverse list includes sizable, populous cities like New Zealand’s Auckland, Kenya’s Nairobi, Norway’s Oslo, and Canada’s Vancouver.
Back in 2015, 42 cities reported getting 70 percent of their electricity from clean energy. This has now more than doubled, all in just two years. Although this is partly down to a global shift toward renewables, this increase is also partly down to the fact that more cities are now reporting to the CDP, per The Guardian.
Of those in this 70 percent list, 57 are in Latin America, 21 are in Europe, nine are in Africa, five are in Canada, four are in the US, three are found in New Zealand, and one can be found in South Korea, with another in Australia.
Of these 101, just over 40 are operating on 100 percent renewable electricity, using various combinations of wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal power sources. These include Iceland’s Reykjavik and Vermont’s Burlington – the first city in the US to achieve such a feat.
The report also stressed that there’s a growing commitment for cities around the world to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Indeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that renewables are continuously setting new capacity records, with solar power leading the way.
This strengthening market also includes the United States: The CDP report noted that 58 cities are aiming for 100 percent renewable electricity grids as soon as possible. In fact, despite some major hiccups at the federal level, the switch to renewable energy in the US has been fairly impressive.
Although solar power has hit a few minor bumps along the road, it’s worth noting that it’s not just the states that you’d expect that are fueling its proliferation: 8-out-of-10 of the fastest-growing US solar markets are in states that voted for Trump.
The CDP report also states that cities are investing billions in renewable energy projects. Sounds expensive until you remember that, in the long run, such schemes save these cities and countries trillions of dollars, something even fiscal conservatives far from Congress are happy to embrace.
Although the coal industry is certainly petering out, it’s too early to say that the fuel source is dead on arrival. It’s still incredibly cheap, and its use in China largely tracks with the economy. India, soon to be the most populous nation in the world, also relies heavily on coal.
Still, China, the world’s most prolific greenhouse gas emitter, is enjoying a solar-powered boom lately, along with Europe and the US. Signs are also pointing toward communities in the developing world, particularly in several African nations, leapfrogging over coal and choosing solar power too.
Although the affordability of natural gas is a little problematic if you want to get to 100 percent renewables as a city in any part of the world, Vox recently concluded that “cities are endorsing a future in which coal and natural gas are obsolete.”
“There’s no one size fits all approach to transitioning to renewable electricity, with our data showing an increasing mix of technologies including solar and wind power,” Kyra Appleby, the Director of Cities at CDP, told IFLScience.
“But, with the cost of renewable energy at an all-time low, and set to be more cost effective than fossil fuels globally by 2020, one thing is clear – cost is no longer an obstacle.”