IRENA: Urban renewables infrastructure needs to be concentrated in fastest-growing cities


A report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has again highlighted the disparity between the world's most promising solar power regions and the actual locations of PV plants.

The Rise of Renewables in Cities study, jointly produced with the German government's International Climate Initiative, considers the urgent need to deploy renewable energy facilities in such locations with the global population set to increasingly gravitate towards urban areas by mid century.

Citing estimates two-thirds of the world's population – 6.7 billion people – will live in cities by 2050, the study pointed out only three cities in areas with the highest 10% of the world's solar power potential had a renewable energy target: Leon de los Alamadas and Puebla de Zaragoza in Mexico and Kisumu in Kenya.

None of those three cities is aiming for 100% renewable energy by mid century and, in the world's top 30% of locations for solar potential – ranked by global horizontal irradiance – only 2% of cities have committed to a fully clean energy mix.

The report stated “582 cities that have excellent solar energy resource potential lack the political commitment or ambition to scale up their use of renewables (especially solar) to meet energy demand.”

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The problem is particularly stark in Africa, said the IRENA study, where only 1% of solar plants are within 20km of urban centers. The report added: “Africa's large solar resource remains largely unexploited.”

Los Angeles is the only global mega city to have set a 100% renewable energy target, according to the report, with Atlanta, Barcelona, Madrid and Toronto the only urban centers with a population of 5-10 million to have done so. Some 33 cities with a population of 1-5 million are aiming for a fully renewable power mix, according to IRENA.

The crux of the problem, the report highlighted, is that 82% of the 551 global cities to have set renewables targets are in the 30 nations with the highest GDP. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has estimated 90% of the 2.5 billion new city dwellers anticipated by 2050 will be in Africa and Asia.

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