Renewable energy targets at the city level can in principle function similarly, even though cities often have limited governance authority over energy given their interconnections with the national energy systems in most countries. Over the past decade, the number of cities that have set targets to support renewable energy has increased more than six-fold, from less than 100 cities in 2010 to 671 cities spanning 70 countries in 2019. Altogether, cities have set nearly 1 000 renewable-related targets of all types, with some cities having more than one target. Most of these cities are in Europe and North America, while Asia and Africa lag in target setting.
The fact that more than 80% of the cities that have renewable energy targets are in Europe and North America, regions that typically have temperate or cold climate zones (Figure), has a marked impact on energy demand and on the types of energy services needed – particularly heating in winter.
By comparison, 389 targets (40% of the total) are aimed at renewable electricity generation. However, the remaining 55% of targets for all renewables cover heating as well, reflecting the trend of electrification in end-use sectors (including heating), which is taking advantage of the rapid scale-up in solar PV and wind generation thanks to dramatic cost declines in these technologies in the past decade.
The analysis of targets also reveals a correlation between cities that have renewable energy targets and a city’s overall economic status. Most of the cities that have renewable energy targets (551 out of 671 cities, or 82% of the total) are found in the 30 countries with the highest GDP per capita, based on categorization by the International Monetary Fund (IMF, 2019). Meanwhile, the ten countries with the highest GDP per capita (Luxembourg, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Qatar, Iceland, the United States (US), Singapore, Denmark and Australia) are home to around 40% of the cities with renewable energy targets. This is in sharp contrast to the 30 countries with the lowest GDP per capita, which have only four cities with targets.