Renewable Energy Information
  on Markets, Policy, Investment, and Future Pathways
  by Eric Martinot

Solar (and Sustainable) Cities

Note: this page was created in December 2004 and has not been updated since then. This page serves as historical reference and still contains much relevant information. A new page on City and Local Renewable Energy Policies was added to this site in June 2009 and contains a REN21/ISEP/ICLEI report which provides recent versions of many of the draft case studies linked below on this page.

The First International Solar Cities Congress was held in Daegu, Korea, November 14-18, 2004. At the Congress, 19 cities from around the world presented their policies and programs for incorporating renewable energy and other clean energy forms into urban development. This page provides an overview of those case studies, links to more information, and the beginning of a directory on the topic of solar (and sustainable) cities.

Index to this page:

⇒ City Case Studies from Solar Cities Congress
⇒ Topical Links and References
⇒ Organizations Working on Solar (and Sustainable) Cities
⇒ Targets for Renewable Energy Shares and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The term "solar (and sustainable) cities" is a broad term that can encapusulate many different initiatives, activities, and technologies. Generally, it implies renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport options, new urban planning methods or goals, architectural innovation, and environmental health. Definitions of "solar cities" by the International Solar Cities Initiative and the European Solar Cities Initiative also include a "climate-stabilization" aspect, whereby cities responsibly set per-capital targets for future greenhouse-gas emissions at levels consistent with stablizing future levels of atmospheric carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases.


Note: first versions of case studies (Dec. 10, 2004) are unreviewed and subject to revision

City RE goalsCO2 goalsSHWSolar PV TransportBuildingsPlanningDemos
Adelaide, Australia XX XX
Barcelona, Spain X XX
Cape Town, South Africa XX X
Daegu, Korea XX X XX
Freiburg, Germany XX X XX
Gelsenkirchen, Germany XX
Goteborg, Sweden XX
Gwangju, Korea XX X
The Hague, Netherlands X
Linz, Austria X
Minneapolis, USA X X
Oxford, UK XXXX XX
Qingdao, China XX
Santa Monica, USA XXXX
Sapporo, Japan X XX

Meaning of checkmark is significant activity in the given category:

RE goalsTargets or goals set for the future share of energy from renewable energy.
CO2 goalsFuture CO2 emissions targets set, usually on a city-wide or per-capita basis, and often referenced to the emissions of a base year (like 1990 or 2000).
SHWPolicies and/or incentives for solar hot water enacted.
Solar PVPolicies and/or incentives for solar power enacted.
TransportPolicies and/or urban planning approaches for sustainable transport enacted/being used.
BuildingsEnergy-efficient building codes, standards, and/or incentives enacted.
PlanningOverall urban planning approaches with consideration for future energy consumption and sources.
DemosSpecific projects, subsidized by public funds or otherwise financed as one-time demonstrations or limited-scale investments in any of the above categories.

TOPICAL LINKS AND REFERENCES (section still being developed)

Solar Hot Water

International Energy Agency, Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) Program

Weiss, Werner, Irene Bergmann, Gerhard Faninger. 2004. Solar Heating Worldwide: Markets and Contribution to Energy Supply 2001. International Energy Agency, Paris.

Weiss, Werner. 2004. "Solar heating systemsÑstatus and recent development." Renewable Energy World, Vol. 7, No. 4 (July-August).

Solar Power

International Energy Agency, Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS) Program

Maycock, Paul. 2004. "PV Market Update." Renewable Energy World, Vol. 7, No. 4 (July-August).

Paul, Nicole. 2004. "Pastures new: Germany's PV market moves into new territory" Renewable Energy World, Vol. 7, No. 3 (May-June).

Building Energy Efficiency

International Energy Agency, Energy Conservation In Buildings And Community Systems (ECBCS) Program

International Energy Agency, Demand-Side Management (DSM) Programme

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Building Technologies Department of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Building Energy Analysis Program of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division

Oxford Brookes University, School of the Built Environment, Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development

Sustainable Transport Planning

World Resources Institute EMBARQ Center for Transport and the Environment

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Transport Energy Analysis Program of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division

UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies


IEA Bioenergy: An international collaboration in bioenergy

Fulton, Lew, Tom Howes, and Jeffrey Hardy. 2004. Biofuels for Transport: An International Perspective. International Energy Agency, Paris.


Chicago: Green Kind of Town, Elisa Wood, Renewable Energy World, Vol. 7 No. 2. Discusses Chicago's efforts plus "other green cities to watch around the world", including Reykjavik, Iceland; Vancouver, Canada; Sacramento, USA; Barcelona, Spain; Portland, USA; Malmo, Sweden; Austin (TX), USA; Freiburg, Germany; and Sydney, Australia.


International Solar Cities Initiative (ISCI). This group was formed several years ago and was responsible for organizing the First International Solar Cities Congress in Daegu, Korea in November 2004. At the Congress, a nine-member permanent ISCI Executive Committee was created, with subtasks in four major areas: (1) policy research and planning in four initial cities (Daegu, Goteborg, Sapporo, and The Hague); (2) city coordination including information sharing and collaboration, good-practice examples, and peer-to-peer contacts; (3) active capacity building for city planners and others to assist with target setting, planning and implementation; and (4) publication and information dissemination. A primary focus of ISCI is target-setting on a city-level for introduction of renewable enegy and/or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over long-term time frame, consistent with "carbon stablization" scenarios. Further information about ISCI and plans is expected on their website in the future.

European Solar Cities Initiative (ESCI). Currently hosted by the International Solar Energy Society, this initiative expects in the future to undertake projects and activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency through research, development, demonstration and information dissemination activities and through stakeholder participation (citizen and others). The goal is to speed up the transformation of the European cities into Solar Cities.

Solar City Task Force. This is a parallel solar city program, now linked to the World Council on Renewable Energy. As with ISCI, the task force has roots in the International Energy Agency Solar Heating and Cooling Program, Task 30 on Solar Cities. And the purpose of the program is similar to ISCI and ESCI: to assist towns, cities and city regions to integrate renewable energy and energy conservation and efficiency measures into local development. The site contains historical material on the solar cities concept.

International Solar Energy Society (ISES) -- Solar Cities - European Habitats of Tomorrow Project. The project considers cities as complete systems, aims to establish targets for energy use and emission reduction, identify performance indicators, and develop planning strategies. This project has studied seven European cities (Bruck an der Leitha, Copenhagen, Lyon, Salzburg, Toftlund, Turin, Zonnige Kempen), and compiled a set of "best practices" based on the policies and measures seen in these cities. A full report of the work was being reviewed by the EC in late 2004 and is expected to be subsequently released to the public.

European Green Cities NetworkDescriptions of demonstration projects and knowledge sharing on experiences with sustainable urban housing technologies in Europe.

European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign. Operated from 1994-2003 to promote urban sustainability in Europe.

Energie Cités Association. Supports sustainable energy policy at the muncipal level through advisory services and information. More than 100 cities involved.

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. ICLEI is a democratically governed membership association of cities, towns, counties, metropolitan governments, and local government associations. Its mission is to "build and serve a worldwide movement of local governments to achieve tangible improvements in global sustainability with special focus on environmental conditions through cumulative local actions." Within ICLEI is the Cities for Climate Protection campaign, a "performance-oriented campaign that offers a framework for local governments to develop a strategic agenda to reduce global warming and air pollution emissions." That campaign now has over 500 local government participants representing 8% of global carbon-dioxide emissions.

Australia National Solar Cities Program. Launched in 2004, this program is providing A$75 million in funding over eight years for solar city related projects in at least four Australian cities. Adelaide is the first city to receive funding under this program.


Renewable Energy Shares

"Renewable portfolio standards" (RPS) at national and regional levels have emerged over the past several years. RPS indicates a target or regulatory mandate for a certain share of power generation to come from renewable energy by a specified year. In the United States, individual state and utility targets range typically between 5-30%. The EU has a target of 22% by 2010. Japan has a national RPS target of 1.35% by 2010 (excluding large hydro). China has a national target of 10% by 2010 (also excluding large hydro). The Philippines has a target of 4700 MW by 2013 (absolute amount rather than a percent share).

More recently, cities have proposed and adopted targets for renewable energy shares. Such targets typically take two forms: (1) a percentage of the electricity consumption of the city government only (i.e., public buildings), and (2) a percentage of total electricity consumption in the city. Some targets may specify a share of total energy consumption, not just electricity. The table below summarizes existing city targets.

CityRE share of
municipal electricity
RE share of
total city electricity
Other targets
Adelaide, Australia15% by 2014
Cape Town, South Africa10% by 202010% of homes by 2010
have SHW
Chicago (IL), USA20% by 2006
10% currently
Daegu, Korea5% of energy by 2012
Freiburg, Germany10% by 2010
4% currently
Gwangju, Korea2% of energy by 2020
Minneapolis (MN), USA10% currently
Oxford, UK10% of homes by 2010
have SHW/Solar PV
Portland (OR), USA100% by 2010
Sacramento (CA), USA20% by 2011
San Diego (CA), USA23% currently
San Francisco (CA), USA1 MW/year added
Santa Monica (CA), USA100% currently

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Targets

The UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol has specified greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets at national levels through to the year 2012. These targets are in the range 6-8% below 1990 emissions levels for countries that must reduce emissions under the protocol (principally the EU, Canada, and Japan), although three countries must reduce emissions just to 1990 levels by 2012 (New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine) and three more are allowed 1-10% increases above 1990 levels (Norway, Australia, Iceland).

More recently, cities have proposed and adopted greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. At the city level, such target setting is complicated by industrial production. Emissions associated . Nevertheless, analysts and advocates have suggested long-term per-capita targets in the range of 2 to 4 tons CO2/capita are achievable and responsible levels. "Responsible" meaning that stabilizing global emissions at projected future population levels at these per-capita levels would result in climate stabilization before catastrophic climate change occurs. The table below summarizes existing city targets.

CityCO2 emissions reduction target
Adelaide, Australiazero net emissions by 2012 in buildings
zero net emissions by 2020 in transport
Freiburg, Germany25% below 1992 levels by 2010
Gwangju, Korea20% below [year] levels by 2020
The Hague, Netherlandscity government "CO2 neutral" by 2006
whole city "CO2 neutral" in long term
Portland (OR), USA10% below 1990 levels by 2010
Sapporo, Japan10% below 1990 levels by 2012
Vancouver (BC), Canada20% below 1990 levels by 2012

Related Links

R. Wiser, K. Porter, and R. Grace. 2004. Evaluating Experience with Renewables Portfolio Standards in the United States (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

[Need references on CO2 estimation and targeting methodologies]


Information for this page was taken partly from submissions and presentations at the First International Solar Cities Congress, Daegu, Korea, November 14-18, 2004, including material from the following people.

Greg Acker, City of Portland
Gunter Amesberger, City of Linz
Henk Bakker, City of The Hague
Scott Benson, Minneapolis City Council
Cui Xi-zhu, Vice Mayor of Qingdao
Hans Eek, Goteborg Energi
Manuel Fuentes, Oxford Brooks University
Yasuaki Harada, City of Sapporo
Craig Haskings, City of Cape Town
Klaus Hoppe, City of Freiburg
Bum-il Kim, Vice Mayor of Daegu
Jong-dall Kim, Kyungpook National University
Byung-hwa Lee, Vice Mayor of Gwangju
Jorgen Linder, Mayor of Goteborg
Chris McGowan, City of Adelaide
Pam O'Connor, Santa Monica City Council
Toni Pujol-Vida, City of Barcelona
Susan Roaf, Oxford City Council
Heinz-Pter Schmitz-Borchert, Science Park Gelsenkirchen
M. Smits, Vice Mayor of The Hague
Fumio Uedo, Mayor of Sapporo

Page updated June 13, 2009
Photo credits C. Babcock, W. Gretz and DOE/NREL Photo Information Exchange