Urban Energy Innovation in the Global South  

Posted by Big Gav

WorldChanging has a post on promoting renewable energy in the developing world - ICLEI's Emani Kumar explains Urban Energy Innovation in the Global South.

It's been a while since most cities took an active role in managing their own energy supply. Centralized national or regional generation and supply grids effectively displaced the days when cities ran their own independent systems. But with the interest in local renewables a shift is in the works. Cities are becoming increasingly comfortable integrating energy policies into their mandates and encouraging local level generation. The many facets of this shift have been a key theme at the ICLEI World Congress, running in Edmonton (Alberta) until the end of the week.

Through programs like the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP), and the Local Renewables Network, ICLEI has helped foster renewable power projects in many cities that have already been celebrated for their energy accomplishments. German solar cities like Freiburg, or Vaxjo Sweden (acclaimed the greenest city in Europe) are all attending the Congress here in Edmonton. But a draft report released at the conference by REN21, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies and ICLEI makes it clear that those cities are not alone. The “Global Status Report on Local Renewable Energy Policies” points to 160 other cities who have put in place local renewable energy policies and programs.

Solar steam system, Ahamad Nagar, Maharastra, India iclei_solar%20steam%20system.jpg
Among the most interesting are cities outside of the areas normally celebrated in the media for leadership on these issue. In India, for example, a small group of cities have been pushing for the adoption of local renewables, and their work has paved the way for a national Solar Cities Project announced earlier this year.

One of those leaders is Nagpur, India. A city of 2.4 million, Nagpur has put in place a municipal ordinance requiring solar hot water heaters on all large new residential buildings. In a different take on using property taxes to create incentives, the municipality has created a 10 percent tax rebate for homeowners who comply. Nagpur is also aiming for a 20 percent reduction in conventional energy consumption by municipal buildings and services by 2012.

While the initiatives may sound familiar, the reasons for carrying them out are very different from what we've seen in cities in the global north. Reducing emissions doesn't have quite the same political caché in India as it does in Europe or North America. Both politically and practically speaking, concerns over energy security and the stability of the energy supply are the key issues. “Even today, still, in a city like Mumbai you have blackouts at least 2 or 3 hours a day,” explained Emani Kumar, executive director of ICLEI's operations in South Asia. “If you can tell people and politicians there that you have a way for them to address this problem – they are interested.”

The interest is more than local. The recently announced national Solar Cities Project builds on the work done by Nagpur, and other Indian cities that are part of ICLEI's Local Renewables Network. In the first phase of the project 60 cities (Nagpur among them) have committed to meeting 10 percent of their energy consumption through energy efficiency measures and renewables over the next 5 years. The national program provides cities with major financing to enable them to plan and implement a local energy strategy.

I spoke with Kumar about the initial hurdles of the Local Renewables Program in India and his hopes for the future of the Solar Cities Program.

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