Q. 1. Which renewable energy technologies are most suitable to integrate into existing urban infrastructures in established cities, and which are more appropriate for expanding cities in areas that are rapidly urbanizing?

March 24, 2017

This discussion is now closed. Thank you for your participation.


  • Claudio Torres Slum Upgrading Consultant, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch. UN-Habitat
  • Pireh Otieno Human Settlements Officer, Urban Basic Services Branch - UN-Habitat
  • Kulwant Singh Regional Advisor - UN-Habitat
  • Marcus Mayr Urban Planner, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat
  • Edmundo Werna Head of Unit at Sectoral Policies Dept. ILO

Q. 1. Which renewable energy technologies are most suitable to integrate into existing urban infrastructures in established cities, and which are more appropriate for expanding cities in areas that are rapidly urbanizing?

Question 1: Which renewable energy technologies are most suitable to integrate into existing urban infrastructures in established cities, and which are more appropriate for expanding cities in areas that are rapidly urbanizing?

Abu Dhabi meeting raises energy and climate ambition in advance of Habitat III Conference

Abu Dhabi, 20 January 2016

Massive deployment of low-carbon energy in the world’s cities is now both vital and economic, a high-level United Nations (UN) meeting concluded today at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Hosted by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Habitat III Secretariat, the meeting sets the agenda for October’s United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (known as Habitat III), the third in a series of UN summits held only once every 20 years on sustainable urbanization. The thematic meeting in Abu Dhabi recommended a number of policy, technology, and financing commitments in the format of a final declaration, covering energy sectors like electricity generation, building and appliance codes, transport, heating and cooling, and waste- to-energy. Read more: https://www.habitat3.org/bitcache/9adb8260013a1230adeea86f4a03f96eca91be48?vid=567209&disposition=inline&op=view

Environment Europe Ltd
Wed, March 16, 2016 at 02.15 pm

Please see the artcile Shmelev and van den Bergh (2016) ‘Optimal Diversity of Renewable Energy Alternatives under Multiple Criteria: an Application to the UK’ attached.

Environment Europe Ltd
Wed, March 16, 2016 at 02.10 pm

It seems a range of geographical and climatic conditions will determine the optimal mix of renewable energies for the urban areas. I totally agree that there is an important role for solar energy and energy efficiency in buildings. At the same time, some countries like Brazil or Austria are fortunate to have good access to hydropower, countries like France have their energy systems powered by nuclear energy. It is important to take into consideration a range of factors apart from the classic costs and CO2 emissions, for instance: land use, water use, employment, EROI etc. Our new paper, which I will attach to the next message, published in a high impact journal, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews illustrates how modelling renewable energy mixes could be done with multi-criteria decision aid tools. It seems there are no best solutions for all cases, but an ideal mix will differ whether you are in Iceland, Colombia, Brazil or Austria. 

Herve AZEMTSA Herve AZEMTSA | Managing Director S2 Cameroon from Cameroon
Tue, January 26, 2016 at 06.06 pm

I believe that wether we are talking about existing or developping cities, one component remain crutial.

The uptake of renewables, energy efficiency and sustainable building largely depend on the local content. 

– How well developped is the local capacity to enable and accelerate the uptake (Capacity Building and Development is the key in this regards, and that capacity development coming from similar countries or group always help better)

– How well prepared is the local industry, be it for manufacturing or for maintening the acquired technology 

– which local governance structure is in place to facilitate the uptake with policies and regulatory  framework.

With my little experience, it seems that EE and RE have work best where policies and manufacturing of the different technologies where in place (at least one of the two or best both of them).

Thus for Africa, developping EE and RE economies (industries) through the right policies instrument will be the best asset toward sustainable cities. 

Regards from Douala,


Fatma Mohamed, Tanzania
Tue, January 26, 2016 at 09.23 am

In countries like Tanzania that have a wide range of topographic and climatic features, the potential of achieving success though a number of renewable energy sources is quite high. Depending on their location, different cities should be looking at renewable sources independently. This can be achieved by giving local city authorities more autonomous power when it comes to deciding energy policies as well as the bylaws they can implement within their city boundaries.

Although this is very important, policies to effectively cut on energy use are also as important since with the rapid expansion of the cities energy that is not used effectively in buildings for an instant will continue to leak indefinitely. Since buildings utilizes around 50 percent of energy in developing countries, a focus on how to efficiently use energy in buildings is very important in making sure that the available energy in a certain country can serve a larger population with no added costs. This can be achieved through the introduction of Building Energy Efficiency Codes either at the Central government level or through Municipalities if are autonomous in their policy making.

I believe better and inclusive discussions with governments is needed to get them aware of the importance of Building Energy Efficiency Codes.

Herve AZEMTSA Managing Director from Cameroon
Tue, January 26, 2016 at 08.28 am

In existing cities, solar therman and solar PV have an edge over the other technologies. They are mostly plug and play, do not require much space or much extra change on existing infrastructures. 

When it come to growing city or environment where there is still room for initial change, the first thing will be applying energy efficiency, then working with small hybrid systems and micro grid technology. In many African Cities, sustainable biomass-energy should be a major compoment of the energy mix. Some policy workd should lead to using the right and available source for the corresponding application. Solar PV for lighting, Solar Thermal or cogeneration for heating and hot water (if needed). If there is no policy in place, people will continue to go for the easy and short term solutions.

ICLEI from Canada
Mon, January 25, 2016 at 05.01 pm

1 – Cities by definition have a fairly high population density and compact urban fabric meaning that, in general, there is not enough surface area available to match the city’s energy demand with a low energy density renewable resource such as solar or small-scale wind power. Large and dense cities in general will have to cooperate with the wider “hinterland” or region to be able to meet their energy demand exclusively with renewable resources, even if considering only their electricity demand.

2 – In already established large high-density cities, the best approach to transform the different energy sectors may be:

  • Electricity – Cooperation between the city and the wider region is crucial to fully cover the demand with resources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, etc.. Further technological development is needed to address standing operational challenges to the large-scale use of decentralized and variable renewable energy sources as is well known (e.g.: development of smart grids, systems integration between different energy-carrier grids, energy storage and development of new energy carriers, etc.). Decentralized power production within the city has potential to cover part of the onsite demand, for example using solar photovoltaic, but injection of the surplus power to the grid faces the hurdles mentioned above, and eventually additional framework challenges.
  • Heating and cooling – Two pronged approach: implementation of district energy systems coupled with renewable energy sources where viable; elsewhere, incentivize decentralized renewable energy options (e.g.: solar thermal on roof-tops, heat pumps, biomass, biogas, recovery of heat from wastewater mains, etc.)
  • Transport – Biogas generated from sewage sludge treatment and/or from the organic fraction of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) may cover the fuel needs of the public transport bus fleet and/or of the MWS collection fleet, but will not be sufficient to cover the entire transport-fuel needs of a city. Electrification of the transport system (train, metro, private vehicles) is an important factor, assuming the electricity is coming from renewable energy sources, but it must be combined with Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and complemented with a strategy to address urban logistics. Urban logistics may be a sector where new technological options such as hydrogen or hydrocarbons generated with electricity may come to play but further developments are still needed

3 – Expanding cities have several key opportunities:

  • Integrating urban planning with sectoral policies to increase the efficiency of energy use at the scale or urban infrastructure systems and at the scale of neighborhoods, particularly energy and transport (e.g.: district energy systems, reuse waste heat, TOD, etc.)
  • Drastically increase energy efficiency on the demand side, at building scale, in comparison with the existing benchmarks, namely enforcing or encouraging passive house standard, connection to district energy systems, etc.).
  • Require new buildings to use renewable energy decentralized energy systems considering the resources locally available (e.g.: solar, biomass, geothermal).

IRENA/ICLEI case study, Austin, US – Stimulating Renewable Energy through Public and Private Procurement, available at: https://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/PUBLICATIONS/Case_Studies/4_Austin_-_ICLEI-IRENA_2012.pdf

ICLEI case study n. 107, São Paulo, Brazil – Turning pollution into profit: the Bandeirantes Landfill Gas to Energy Project, https://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/PUBLICATIONS/Case_Studies/ICLEI_cs_107_Sao_Paulo_2009.pdf

Regional District of Nanaimo: Pollution Control Centre, in Partners for Climate Protection National Measures Report 2011, page 9, available at: https://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/PCP/2011_Partners_for_Climate_Protection_Measures_Report_EN.pdf

IRENA/ICLEI case study, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – Local Government Regulation Ordinances and Laws to Promote Renewable Energy, available at: https://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/PUBLICATIONS/Case_Studies/6_Sao_Paulo_-_ICLEI-IRENA_2012.pdf;

ICLEI case study n. 112, Betim, Brazil – Solar water heaters in low income housing: energy and financial savings:


ICLEI Urban-Nexus case story 14 – Linköping, Sweden – Waste-to-Energy Power Plant: biogas powers public transport in Linköping, available at: https://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/PUBLICATIONS/Case_Stories/Urban_NEXUS/14_Urban_NEXUS_Case_Story_Linkoping_ICLEI-GIZ_2014.pdf

ICLEI Urban-Nexus case study 7 Lille Metropole, France – Waste to fuel: biogas powered buses in Lille Metropole, https://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/PUBLICATIONS/Case_Studies/Urban_NEXUS_cs07_Lille_ICLEI-GIZ_2014.pdf

City of Surrey: Sustainable Waste Management, ICLEI Canada, Partners for Climate Protection National Measures Report 2012, page 13, available at: https://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/PCP/2013/PCP_National_Measures_Report_2012_Five_Year_Edition_EN.pdf

Sarah Colenbrander, Researcher, Human Settlements Group, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London from United Kingdom
Mon, January 25, 2016 at 04.00 pm

I would like to echo the comment from the Asian Institute for Technology about the importance of approaching this question within a wider framework, i.e. “Defining the need, adopting energy efficiency, switching to renewable energy”. I also agree with the comments from John, Isaac and Design Marks about the importance of considering the particular context, such as the climate, rate of urbanisation and carbon intensity of the regional grid. The scale of different opportunities varies immensely from city to city, as illustrated by the studies below which identify the most economically attractive and carbon-effective options available in each city. These examples demonstrate that individual cities (or perhaps regional groups of cities) will need to individually determine what particular combinations of new energy technologies and energy efficiency measures will best meet their needs.

Leeds, United Kingdom

 Palembang, Indonesia

Recife, Brazil

Johor Bahru, Malaysia

There are also studies for Kolkata (India)Lima (Peru) and Kigali (Rwanda – forthcoming) if these examples are of interest.

Dr Cheikh Mouhamed Fadel KEBE, Directeur Executif Incubateur Innodev, Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique, Dakar from Senegal
Mon, January 25, 2016 at 03.12 pm

Le thème est très intéressant et d’actualité. Selon mon expérience et ma proposition des visions des choses mes propositions vont dans ce sens :

  1. La première énergie à promouvoir est la maitrise de l’énergie dans les cités qui est également le passage obligé pour la transition énergétique vers l’intégration des énergies renouvelables. Pour cela il faut une utilisation rationnelle de l’énergie dans le secteur du bâtiment avec en intégrant tous les éléments d’efficacité énergétique aussi pour les bâtiments existant que pour les bâtiments neufs. Ces mesures d’économie d’énergétique seront effectivité aussi bien l’enveloppe des bâtiments que sur les équipements (utilisation des équipements de classe A) sans oublier les occupants. Ces derniers doivent être sensibilisés pour une utilisation efficiente de l’énergie et cela des le jeune âge. Une forte sensibilisation au niveau des édifices publics où souvent, on observe de gaspillage car les agents de ces administrations ne payant pas l’énergie en font un usage qui défie les bonnes pratiques de gestion et d’économie.
  2. Intégrer les énergies renouvelables pour diverses applications. Je pense à ces énergies renouvelables :
  • 2.1 Le solaire PV pour la production d’électricité pour les maisons (éclairage, audio visuel, réfrigération avec les frigos de classe A) en sommes toutes les puissances admissibles avec le solaire PV.

Pour la climatisation, voir les dispositifs actuels utilisant les automates pour piloter les installations de climatisation avec des système hybrides solaires/ réseau où le solaire peut avoir une pénétration jusqu’à 80% du solaire pour les édifices publiques et privés dont on a une bonne corrélation entre la charge et la production solaire (heure de fonctionnement de 8h à 17h30).

Pour le choix des installations, ça peut des installations individuelles (home kit) ou bien des mini réseau pour les immeubles afin de mutualiser les toitures terrasse. Il faut cependant un outil de gestion et ceci d’autant plus dans la plupart des pays la connexion réseau n’a pas encore vu le jour.

J’en profite pour demander à ce que l’option connexion réseau, il faut rapidement que pour l’Afrique que la connexion réseau soit une réalité en poussant nos pays à lever les verrous plus d’ordre montage de projets et législation qu’autre. La Technique est maitrisée et mure.

  • 2.2 L’énergie éolienne. C’est une opportunité réelle pour les pays Africain précieusement de l’Espace CEDEAO situées en zone côtière avec de très bons potentiels. Dans ces zones pour des applications urbaines, il pense aux filières de petites éoliennes pour électrifier les écoles, les hôpitaux etc. Il faut juste faire attention pour les problème d’espace. La filière EolSenegal en est une parfaite illustration au Sénégal.
  • 2.3 Le solaire thermique, oui en zone urbaine, il faut l’imposer à la limite je dirais le pénaliser, chauffer de l’eau avec les résistances électriques est à bannir. L’eau chaude sanitaire est à prescrire pour les maisons individuelles et pour le chauffage collectif dans les immeubles, les hôpitaux, les écoles, les piscines communales en somme tous les usages nécessitant de l’eau chaude.
  • 2.4 Développer les filières biomasse énergie important pour les besoins en cuissons domestiques et également pour les PMI/PME entreprises agro alimentaire et restaurants par exemple. Un projet est en cours réflexion en ce moment appelé Nouvelle Cuisine Rurale mais peut s’appliquer en zones urbaines pour les restaurants et les filières de transformation agroalimentaire. Plus de 50% de la production dans les pays en Afrique est basée sur la biomasse avec l’ensemble des problèmes et effets induits comme les pollutions intérieures. Avec les filières de foyers à Haute performances énergétique les solutions relèvent du concret. Un projet est en cours de réflexion sur la mise en place d’un centre de formation démonstration sur des filières de fabrication normalisé sur ces types de foyers en valorisant les matériaux locaux.
  • 2.5 Insister à l’utilisation des solutions de cogénération électricité, chaleur et froid pour des applications d’usage collectifs et pourquoi à l’échelle des maisons. Des solutions existent avec la valorisation de la chaleur fatale des groupes électrogènes et production d’électricité et de chaleur.
  • 2.6 Dans certains pays des zones ouest africaine comme la Guinée et le sud du Sénégal, il y a la pico électricité à promouvoir pour l’exploitation électrique de petits sites au fil de l’eau. C’est une filière à ne pas négliger surtout des zones urbaines pas loin des petites chutes.

En vertu de l’expérience acquise facilité par les 3 positions de chercheur au Centre International de Formation et de Recherche en Energie Solaire (CIFRES) de l’Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique de Dakar et également initiateur de la licence Professionnelle Meterbat (Maitrise de l’Energie et Technologies d’Energies Renouvelables dans le Bâtiment) et Responsable du Centre d’incubation et de Développement d’Entreprises Innovantes à L’Université de Dakar Innodev-UCAD. Les projets cités sont porteurs et méritent une prise en compte :

  1. Développer de solaire PV en off grid (kits maison) et des solutions collectives. Il faut par contre vers les solutions Lithium pour garanties des durées de vie importantes.
  2. Développer des filières petite éoliennes et pico hydroélectricité dans les zones où le potentiel s’y prêtent. Le projet EolSenegal est à promouvoir pour asseoir cette technologie dans la zone CEDEAO.
  3. La biomasse Energie est également intéressant avec la création de filière de fabricants de foyers performants énergétiquement utilisant des méthodes de combustion contrôlé et non polluantes. Le projet de la Nouvelle cuisine rurale est à promouvoir car pour les zones urbaines va intéresser les restaurants et les PMI/PME agro alimentaires.
  4. Lancer des solutions innovantes pour la climatisation des solutions hybrides solaire réseau intégrant des automates pour la gestion.

Tout ceci devrait être accompagné par de la formation aussi bien sur les technologies en énergie renouvelables mais également sur la maitrise de l’énergie.

Daniel Bouille Presidente Ejecutivo, Fundacion Bariloche, Argentina. from Argentina
Sun, January 24, 2016 at 07.20 pm

Proposals to integrate renewable energy in existing buildings established in cities:

It is necessary to distinguish between cities with access to natural gas network and those without. In towns without access to natural gas network, you can raise the replacement of the fossil fuel used for heating by sustainable biomass employed in high-efficiency equipment. Among modern bioenergy systems there are small gasifiers, biogas engines, boilers that burn chips or briquettes, efficient kilns and efficient stoves.

In high-rise buildings solar PV panels can be placed on the roofs to produce electricity that partially cover the electricity consumption of the building. You may also install solar collectors for domestic water heating and / or air conditioning (hot or cold). System’s performance will depend on the level of solar radiation throughout the year and the characteristics construction of the city.

In family homes of lesser height it is possible to install solar collectors for domestic hot water and air conditioning. It is feasible to install photovoltaic panels if there is no shadow of another building.

In some cases where there wind resource is good it is feasible to install wind turbines on the roofs of low and medium capacity (a few kW). If wind and solar resources are available in the area, wind turbines and solar PV panels or solar collectors can be installed on rooftops. Hybrid equipment that combines wind and solar PV are also available in the market for very low capacity.

For these changes to occur there must be sufficient incentives and often depending on the country the changes should be mandatory in cases of retrofit and perhaps make plans to exchange boilers. Low rate and long terms for financing the purchase of solar PV panels, wind turbines, solar collectors and modern biomass systems is needed.

Proposals for integrating renewable energies in buildings for expanding cities in areas that are rapidly urbanizing:

In new cities, sustainable design and type of construction is very important. To consider the best orientation and distances between buildings as well as the width of the streets are key factors to avoid shadows, allowing installing solar photovoltaic panels not only on roofs but also on walls too. 

Renewable energy must go hand in hand with energy efficiency, so it is important to achieve an excellent level of thermal insulation in walls and ceilings. 

In very hot or cold zones, the lay-out of buildings within the site is also crucial. It is better to construct buildings that share medians in order to reduce the exchange with ambient temperature.

In areas with extreme temperatures, a double door entry or galleries and pergolas should be considered to prevent wind and cold or direct sun in housing.

Sustainable biomass supply should be planned to supplement solar contribution to domestic hot water and heating and cooling. Biomass must ensure that it is a sustainable resource, resulting from dedicated plantations or from sustainable forest management. Chips and briquettes are commonly used: they have high energy density because it is compact biomass with low moisture content.

For these changes to occur there must be sufficient incentives and often depending on the country efficiency standards in construction should be mandatory. For these changes to occur there must be sufficient incentives and often depending on the country efficiency standards in construction should be mandatory. It is essential to have access to low rate and long terms for finance of the purchase of equipment.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat from Kenya
Sun, January 24, 2016 at 07.45 pm

Thanks Daniel for your contributions. You have listed here a number of technologies that could be used to replace fossil fuel appliances. The transition to 100 % renewable in buildings and in cities is therefore feasible. You also recommend the use of incentives as a tool to encourage the rapid uptake of renewables. And finally, you pointed out the importance of mandatory regulations and minimum performance standards in the adoption of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures. What is your take about the continue calls for full removal of subsidies on fossil fuels? Many believe that removing these subsidies could accelerate the transformative change in the energy sector. Is this feasible in Latin America or in Argentina in particular? 

Mariela Belen Aguero from Argentina
Sun, January 24, 2016 at 05.06 pm

Hi to everybody, my answer may come a little late. I dont live in a large city, my city only has a million inhabitants in a wide territory and my opinion is conditiones by my context. I think as some of you have already mentioned that the human factor is the most important, because until common people is not fully aware about the importance of building sustainable cities, it is more than difficult that real changes become a reality. The society has to demand changes to their governors. 

Furthermore, I as many of you, think that the best solution will depend on each city particular features, for example, the city where has the erfec conditions to use solar energy, but not so much with eolic energy. 

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat from Kenya
Sun, January 24, 2016 at 08.03 pm

Hi Mariela, thank you for your contribution to the debate. Your are definitely right: Each situationand context calls for a specific solution. Awaress and capacity building is very important as we advocate for low carbon energy technologies. Could you please tell us more about your city, with a particular focuss on both energy needs and supply? What is the level of access to  electricity in your city?

Factor CO2 Consulting Head of Energy Department from Spain
Sun, January 24, 2016 at 03.25 pm

Renewable Energy deployment into cities has to be part of a comprehensive urban planning exercise that considers the 5 networks: transport, water, energy, waste and ICT. Besides urban planning should consider both: mitigation but also adaptation strategies.

There are best practices in terms of policies and technologies for integrating RE in buildings (solar PV rooftops, biomass for heating, solar for hot sanitary water). Besides the valorisation of municipal solid waste into energy. These two approach should be strongly promoted.

Finally, cities presents today the challenges of converting all their transport to electrical mobility. Market deployment of these vehicles have to be in parallel with the development of the needed recharging infrastructure in cities. Again the technology is there, and best practices on policies and support schemes exits.

Goodman Kazoora Project Manager, Energy Efficiency in Buildings in East Africa, UN-HABITAT from Kenya
Fri, January 22, 2016 at 01.02 pm

Thank you Vincent for the discussion. I agree with Emanuela from the politechnical of Milan. I think we tend to overlook a key resource which could even be the most available. ‘People’. Since technology is human controlled, failure to understand the human component can fail the whole mission. We face a big challenge on raising awareness and building capacities of people especially in developing countries where there is a higher vulnerability of adoption of technology as is rather than adaption. And this system is in most cases bound to fail because of the rigid way we think about people and places rather than the dynamic, complex and user-oriented approach. The assumption that people will act rationally in the face of technology creates even more unpredictability. I think understanding people could be key in the way we think about the problem. As Mark from Sustainable Energy Africa pointed out that the ‘one size fits all’ approach may not work and may be what we need is some form of international co-operation where cities and people can slowly constantly interact and share, research and test innovation. The result is a technological hybrid that has been tested over time, should be even more innovative and relevant for a specific place. The point is that its people and place centered. 

Federico Professor, Environmental Applied Physics from Italy
Thu, January 21, 2016 at 01.04 pm

Thank you, Vincent, for your summary, which gives me the opportunity to introduce a further issue: the relationship between urban design and solar energy use. I think that cities are going towards a more and more “electric” future, in the sense that the prevailing, if not single, energy vector will be electricity: heat pumps for heating and cooling, lighting, domestic appliances, electric cars, ITCs, etc. Combining this trend with the other trend towards small-scale distributed energy systems, the consequence is that most of this electricity will be provided by PV systems installed on the rooftops or all the buildings of present and future settlements (bio-wastes will be also used, but their potential contribution is far lower; wind and biomass will most likely contribute from large plants located far away from cities).

Roofs will have to be able to provide at least the electricity for all the buildings needs and mobility. Thus, there is a maximum ratio of roof surface to total usable floor area allowable, as there will be a given amount of electricity to be provided each year to each apartment or office or other. This maximum ratio limits the maximum buildings height: a new constraint in the debate about optimum urban density and a new aspect to be considered in the other debate on sustainability of high raise buildings. 

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat from Kenya
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 07.50 pm

We are midway in our urban dialogue, which will be open until the 24th January 2016. So we would like to take stock of your valuable comments and the interesting discussion so far. We have around 20 responses coming from diverse places ranging from Cuba, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Sudan, UK, the US as well as from regional institutions from Asia and Africa.
The questions that we are looking at is: Which renewable energy technologies are most suitable to integrate into existing urban infrastructures in established cities, and which are more appropriate for expanding cities in areas that are rapidly urbanizing?
Mark from Sustainable Energy Africa pointed out that there is no ‘one-solution-fits-all’ as far as technologies is concerned. Each city should use renewable energy sources locally available, and several sources were mentioned such as geothermal, solar PV, biogas, and wind.
Brahmanand from Asia Institute of Technology suggested that the question should be rephrased to “how can our cities achieve energy sustainability?”. Renewable energy are only one piece of the energy sustainability puzzle, and a holistic energy planning approach is a prerequisite for achieving sustainability. This includes understanding the needs, taking stock, energy efficiency, hybrid solutions, switching to renewable energy, and empowerment of local governments.
Following up from this, Emanuela from the politechnical of Milan, Italy, stressed that people should be at the centre of energy sustainability. This is also a point that was eloquently made during the Future Cities Forum that we are attending today. Therefore, capacity building is critical. This requires strengthening of academic research and vocational training for future experts.
Matthew from the UK brought up the issue of innovation that would allow for transformative change in the energy sector. For example, energy storage was mentioned by some respondents. In fact, advancement in technology and a shift towards a more distributed energy system would allow for leapfrogging. The necessary funding for innovation could be freed by removing fossil fuel subsidies.
Other issues that have been raised are municipal energy strategy, energy efficient buildings and building codes, and energy demand management. We will provide a more comprehensive summary at the end of our dialogue, but in the meantime we welcome your continue contribution to the debate. Thank you very much.
Ruud & Vincent out of Abu Dhabi.

Sustainable Energy Africa (Non Profit Company)
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 10.07 am

So there’s the technology and technical considerations, but as some commentators have mentioned, there’s also the enabling environment without which progress will be slow. There are many aspects of such an enabling context.  My organization has focused on building the capacity of local government to do things differently – a systemic change – as one part of this enabling environment.  This is unfortunately also not fast. We have found that consistent and structured support over 5 or 10 years is necessary for a substantial institutional change to take place in local government functioning.  But in many cases the resulting changes are significant – both in institutional structure and operation.  One the organisation has changed, the tendency is for that momentum to continue into the longer-term. Many funders will not consider support work over the necessary timeframes unfortunately.  I hope this will change.  An additional strong need in the enabling environment – and one that is very apparent in Sub-Saharan Africa – is the development of capacity in organisations outside of local government that can support local government and others with sustainable energy transitions.  Academia and other research organisations are amongst these.  I’d like to see increased focus on such capacity support, and international support programmes not just bringing in foreign expertise, but taking responsibility to work with and build local organisations to play a stronger role in sustainable urban energy.

Matthew Ulterino Urban Planning Consultant from United Kingdom
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 07.46 pm

Hi Mark – great comment. The enabling environment has many parts to it, with local government a critical one. I agree that it is slow and labour-intensive, but certainly valuable and can create long-lasting institutional change. Donors do shy away from this. It’s hard to measure and priorities change over the timeframes you are suggesting. It would be ideal if DFIs in particular recognised this process and put resources toward it. Cities need to be “investment ready” both to attract projects that suit their own operational needs (as a procuring agent for energy services) as well to facilitate investments in energy assets tied to other other institutions, businesses and residents. DIstributed energy requires an ecosystem of developers, suppliers, financiers, and operations & maintenance parties, all of whom need to be convinced that the applicable governance structures are supportive. And all of whom will find mutual benefits if they are pulling in the same direction. This ecosystem development and collaborative focus will not happen automatically. Let’s hope this week’s forum explores these issues further. The local job creation and broader economic growth benefits from a distributed energy paradigm make it well worth the effort.

Ruud Kempener – Discussion Moderator Renewable energy analyst;
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 03.30 am

 Today, we will be attending the The Future Cities Forum at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, which will be hosting the Habitat III Thematic Meeting on: “Shaping the urban future together – and putting energy at the heart of the agenda”. I will try to keep you posted on the discussions. The agend for the Forum can be found here: https://www.worldfutureenergysummit.com/Portal/summit/about-the-summit/future-cities-forum/future-cities-agenda.aspx.

Habitat Content Administrator from United States
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 02.17 pm
Please find below some pictures of the opening of the Future Cities Forum, hosting the Habitat III Sustainable Energy Thematic Meeting, which includes Adnan Amin, Director-General of IRENA, Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-Habitat and H.E. Hakima El Haite, Minister of Environment, Morocco:
Habitat Content Administrator from United States
Mon, January 25, 2016 at 08.38 pm

You can read the press release about the Abu Dhabi Thematic Meeting on Sustainable Energy and cities last week here:

Asian Institute of Technology
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 01.25 am

It is interesting to get different views on how renewable energy can be integrated into the existing urban infrastructure and the cities that are rapidly urbanizing, and the various other aspects that needs to be taken into consideration for this to happen, including awareness/sensitization, capacity development, market transformation, financing and fiscal mechanisms and standards/regulatory instruments.

While renewable energy sources are propagated as “the solution” to overcome our addiction to fossil fuels, presently actively supported by the governments through colossal direct and indirect subsidies, we should not forget the fact that some of the renewables come with certain constraints, an important one being their availability and reliability. Countries in the tropical belts of the world are well endowed with solar energy and cities can tap them more easily from the rooftop in comparison with other forms of energy such as wind and biomass. The idea of decentralized energy generation and formation of mini-grid is good but we all know that the sun does not shine 24 hours a day and not during all days throughout the year. Hence, one should seek solutions that are realistic and cost-effective.

For example, some urban activities are performed mostly during the daytime. How to encourage the use of solar energy in schools, offices and commercial establishments that operate during the daytime? Similarly, how to come up with innovative electricity tariff for residential users who carry out certain activities during the daytime than to operate all home appliances during the evening hours when the power grid is already struggling to cope with the peak demand? There is a lot of discussion about the storage of electricity during the availability of renewable energies for use during the other periods. Most grid-level storage options lead to some level of losses. Solar electricity stored in battery for reuse later incurs at least 20-25% losses. These losses can be avoided by adopting time-of-use tariffs that encourage the users to carry out certain tasks during the availability of renewable energies, including pumping of water or production of ice to avoid using refrigeration systems during the absence of renewable energies. Such issues must be taken into consideration while developing urban energy strategy.

Ruud Kempener – Discussion Moderator Renewable energy analyst; IRENA
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 03.26 am

Very interesting contribution, and you have mentioned two words we haven’t discussed a lot: innovation and leapfrogging. Any more suggestions on which innovations have the largest potential to allow smaller developing cities to leapfrog towards sustainable cities?

Rachel Scharly Urban Sociologist
Tue, January 19, 2016 at 03.37 pm

I think that wind power is perfectuly suitable for cities as new and green energy.

Today, a lot of companies all around the world provide urban wind turbines made espacially for the urban space and accepted, thanks to a good design, by citizen and cities.  A lot of building can get a wind turbine on its roof in order to provide enough energy for the whole building. Same thing for public spaces.

More of that, I am sure that small wind turbines installed all around the cities can help people to realize the importance of the energy today, how to use it and do not waste it. The fact to see, every day, wind turbines in the urban space can encourage users to more sustainably gestures and mobility.

Electrical Engineer – Student PHD of environmental Engineer from Sudan
Tue, January 19, 2016 at 08.55 am

I think that the wind power is best suited. Wind power has been growing from 47 GW to 369 GW—a more than sevenfold increase within 10 years with 2014 breaking a new record in global installations (51 GW). By construct small units of wind turbine and distributed among city high buildings so take advantage of the high-rise buildings in cities to use as bases for the generating units. This small wind units must commensurate with the size of the building
connected and synchronized with national grid which will make excellent  assist to the electricity network
The economic viability of this project is so good and also by construct this project we cane reduce emitted pollutant s by decreasing generating power from thermal power plants . by using skyscraper  buildings as holder for these turbine instead of towers will be an added value by saving construction cost of  a wind power  units.

Politecnico di Milano
Mon, January 18, 2016 at 02.25 pm

After some thoughts….

I would say “people”.

I apologized for not having a traditional answer to the question, and I will try to give some rational…

From the technical perspective, “one solution does not fit all” and the boundary conditions of the local context deeply change the final solution. So WHICH is the best REs Technology strongly depends on WHERE we are and widen across many conditions, including availability of specific resources, affordability of technologies, local economy, enabling policies, cultural attitude and behavioral patterns.

In urban areas, the penetration of renewable energies which is supposed to make energy more reliable, efficient, affordable, clean and safe must also respond to the needs and capacities of people and have to be absorbed within the local culture, adapted or even improved in the long run by the people themselves. For this reason, people should be at the center of any strategy. The centrality of human capital is fully highlighted into the Agenda 2030 since breakthrough innovation and shared knowledge, as well as new competences, capacities and skills are deeply needed to cope with the today’s energy challenge at global level, including urban areas, informal settlement and rural areas.

Nevertheless, over the last decade, the debate have tended to lean mostly on technology, finance, and policy as key drivers to promote renewables energies penetration in the different scaled of sustainable energy development. A deep step change is required and a more and more people-oriented and people-driven approach needs to be designed for long term sustainability of energy solutions.

Capacity building needs to go beyond the simple matter of adding a training component in any action and needs to be design fully to deploy the power of human capital as the true engine of the needed transformative path able to valorize local ownership, promoting economic development and guarantying long-term impact.

HOW a capacity building program for the comprehensive domain of competences required in the energy sector at the urban scale, should be organized into a multi-level mix of strategies specifically tailored for different targets and diverse skills, is not a matter that can be here briefly discussed since it require some further reasoning.

At any rate, investing and promoting Joint University Program to build a multidisciplinary capacity for engineers and technicians in developing countries may be a good starting point to create technologies that are locally adapted while contributing to empower the local Higher Education Institution. If the HEIs do not act in isolation, the investment returns to the society since a flux of knowledge and expertise from the HEIs to the local community is activated. HEIs may cooperate with local civil society in Technical Vocational programs or with local authorities or municipalities to promote institutional building for decision makers or energy planners

Investing in human capital for promoting sustainable energy strategies in urban area is always for me a good deal, no matter of the boundary conditions.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat from Kenya
Mon, January 18, 2016 at 08.04 pm

This is an original point of view! Thank you Emanuela for your insightful contribution! Very often, we tend to forget that people should be at the center of technologies, failing to do so drastically compromise the results.
Integrating human capital in the equation is fundamental. Building their capacities is crucial as they are the one to use the technologies. These are preconditions for a transformative process in the urban energy sector.
As the level of energy access remains very low in most developing countries, and the Agenda 2030 calls for universal energy access, what will be the role of education in general in up-scaling clean, affordable and reliable energy options in developing countries?
Thank you.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator from
Tue, January 19, 2016 at 08.10 am

Vincent, the discussion may come to be long and articulate… but thank you for rising such an issue.

I try a first reply and I apologize for not being complete.

Academia can directly

train the future generation (education) with the right skills /competence/attitude (that are different from what we did in the past)

can develop locally based technical solution (research) but also creative business model or new financial schemes and (why not?), energy planning methodologies for urban/rural areas as well as impactevaluation models to be used to assess the directions taken by the ongoing projects, change direction if needed and learn from past (BEST and WORST) cases.

can create a knowledge and Technology transfer – or better a mutual space of learning (outreach program) for supporting local enterprises but also municipalities tosolve their energy

Academia can also indirectly contribute to create an enabling environment and additional benefit in the urban areas (and not only): job creation, entrepreneurship, cultural attitude and awareness..

Can we do it as we are? I do not think so….

Academia need to be more and more:

Flexible, Multidisciplinary, Open to dialogue with other stakeholders(private sector, civil society, institution) each bringing a contribution to the final solutions. A

High quality and specialized but also able to promote systemic approach to global dimensions (which are no longer only the domain of the human science but can affect also the technical solutions to a given problem, as the case for sustainable energy)

Can we walk alone? No, we can’t.

If the urgency of attributing to Capacity Building the right role when dealing with access to energy andsustainable energy strategies is shared by International Organizations (andwhy not?) civil society and/or private sector and we recognize investment are needed, a strong advocacy activity should be conducted with the governmental institution and the development banks

My feeling is that academia do not need donation. But even One-shot investment are not enough. HEIs long-term (result-based) investment (with “strong” monitoring) to prove their effectiveness in doing their job and contributing to drive each country toward the transformative path that is required, for sustainable energy solutions in urban areas….. and beyond.

What do you think? What others think?

kind regards


On 18/01/2016 21:11, wrote:

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Habitat III
Posted on: Sustainable Energy and Cities – Abu Dhabi New comment on Discussion Q. 1. Which renewable energy technologies are most suitable to integrate into existing urban infrastructures in established cities, and which are more appropriate for expanding cities in areas that are rapidly urbanizing? by Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat from Kenya : This is an original point of This is an original point of view! Thank you Emanuela for your insightful contribution! Very often, we tend to forget that people should be at the center of technologies, failing to do so drastically compromise the results. Integrating human capital i! n the equation is fundamental. Building their capacities is crucial as they are the one to use the technologies. These are preconditions for a transformative process in the urban energy sector. As the level of energy access remains very low in most developing countries, and the Agenda 2030 calls for universal energy access, what will be the role of education in general in up-scaling clean, affordable and reliable energy options in developing countries? Thank you. 18 Jan 2016 [ read more ] [ reply ]

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— Prof. Emanuela Colombo, Ph.DRector’s Delegate to Cooperation and DevelopmentUNESCO CHAIR in Energy for Sustainable DevelopmentDepartment of Energy – Politecnico di MilanoVia Lambruschini 4, 20156 Milano, ITALYph:+39.02.2399.3820 – mobile: +393204363042skype: emycolombo

Matthew Ulterino Urban Planning Consultant from United Kingdom
Sun, January 17, 2016 at 06.56 pm

Broadly speaking, there are a great many technologies which are suited to cities in both developed and developing cities. It is in the latter group, where demand is growng signficantly and existing infrastructure is weakest, that likely offers the greater opportunity for quick action and significant scale. Citiies can and should use the assets and features of their location to determine which technologies are best suited to their climate, as all viable technologies at the city scale (solar, wind, biomass/gas, waste to energy, groundsource/geothermal) have long performance histories on which to plan against. And costs for any of these are generally dropping year on year. But rather than thinking about specific technologies, it may be useful to think about trends in how energy sources are designed, financed and deployed. Doing so can help identify how cities can think of energy in terms of systems with their attendant complementarities, rather than energy as just a commodity resource. In fact, while technology cost reductions are enabling remarkable deployment growth of clean energy, it is the emerging innovation in system design and integration, and finance and deployment, that will allow the much-needed step change in distributed energy to occur. Because decentralised renewable energy can be integrated with and provide added asset value to the buildings, mobility, waste management, agriculture, and water sectors (often in combinatin with each other), it broadens the base of partners and stakeholders who can be active participants in the energy services market. Cities should begin to think about the range of businesses, consumers, utilities, and government institutions and service providers who can contribute to and benefit from local energy systems generally. As there are multiple values streams from localised energy solutions (variable and peak energy supply, demand reduction, storage, grid stabilisation), there will be (or need to be) new business opportunities and goverance arrangements. 

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator “””””””Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat””””””” from Kenya
Mon, January 18, 2016 at 08.29 pm

Thank you Matthew for the dimension of: “system design, integration, finance and deployment” that you are bringing to the discussion. The deployment of sustainable energy solutions in developing countries cannot follow the same route that was used in developed countries at the beginning of last century.

In recent years, looking at the rapid deployment of mobile phones in developing countries, one tends to believe that they can be leapfrog in energy sector using renewable energy sources combined with energy efficiency measures.  What is your take on this?

Matthew Ulterino Urban Planning Consultant from United Kingdom
Wed, January 20, 2016 at 06.58 am

Hi Vincent – as regards the opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog to renewables, I believe it’s possible and am cautiously optimistic that this will happen.  The late 19th/early 20th century model of centralised, fossil-based energy practiced by developed countries was a function of making use of the best available technology at the time. But it no longer is. It is highly inefficient, polluting, inflexible, slow to materailise and slow to adapt, and expensive. There are better options now, which is why the leapfrog should happen. Renewables can operate at different scales, be deployed quickly, offer tremendous co-benefits (e.g. air quality improvements), and are the only cost-effective option for providing energy inputs in-line with aspirational growth outputs that developing countries seek.

I speaker I heard recently talking about energy innovation referenced the oft-cited figure that fossil fuels receive direct subsidies in excess of $500 billion annualy, but with an interesting spin suggesting this is proof of how outmoded, outdated, and unviable fossil sources are. They need that level of subsidy just to remain part of the energy services landscape! Renewable energy is subsidised to a small fraction of fossil energy by comparison, yet attracted more than 50% of global investment in energy last year. Renewables rely on industrial production efficiency factors, which systematically go up (improving costs), whereas fossil energy relies on extraction efficiency factors, which necessarily go down. Now that cost parity is near or at hand for many renewables, investment choices in fossil energy have to be viewed as poor decisions. So the leapfrog will fundamentally be about economics, but it will require a change in mindset within governments and institutions (public and private)  on how energy is produced and delivered, by whom, and how it can be financed to accelerate the change,

Sustainable Energy Africa (Non Profit Company)
Sun, January 17, 2016 at 11.26 am

I see lots of useful comments and suggestions. I think many different approaches are necessary and useful given the scale of the challenge.  A few thoughts arising from the above discussion, mainly referring to our experience in urban Sub-Saharan Africa:

It is important to note the difference between what SHOULD be done, and what CAN be done given the realities of limited capacity and often non-existent resources, especially in the Sub-Saharan African local government context. Working closely with local government to understand the detail of the constraints is important to come with workable solutions, and policies and strategies developed without this detailed insight are often ineffective.  But we have found appropriate municipal strategies, developed in a way that builds capacity and is participatory, are effective and important to both guide the allocation of scarce resources as well as attract external support to the local sustainable energy cause.  Capacity building of both local government and local support organisations is absolutely critical – municipal capacity will remain constrained into the long-term according to analysts, and therefore a broad-base of capacity development for sustainable urban energy is necessary.  In addition, there is a very limited understanding of the exact energy situation in urban areas in the sub-continent, and although we and others are working to address this, much research is still needed.  Even the authoritative Africa Energy Outlook of IEA has little clarity on the urban situation.

I think few local governments will move to becoming IPPs or to become central drivers for local mini-grids in the medium-term because of severe capacity constraints.  Opinions will differ here, but I think it may be more appropriate in most cases for them to focus on creating an enabling regulatory environment for, say, grid-connected rooftop solar PV, as well as addressing issues such as inefficient building design and transport and spatial planning, which sit squarely within their current mandates and have enormous energy, emissions, economic and social implications.  Efficient building design promotion through local or national standards remains possibly the easiest big-impact intervention (I know UN Habitat in Nairobi is working on this issue).  An energy efficient building can use half or less of the energy of a conventionally designed one. So for every inefficient building we erect (and there are many in process) it commits us to an expensive, inefficient future for 30 or 40, or more, years to come.  We can do something about this easily, and I think we should, urgently.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator “””””””””””””””Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat””””””””””””””” from Kenya
Mon, January 18, 2016 at 08.53 pm

Dear Mark, you have brought out good points here! Capacity building; stocktaking of energy needs; awareness creation; energy efficiency; planning; policies etc. In other words, we cannot have a narrow view when we are dealing with energy issues. We have to adopt a holistic approach. Thank you for bringing out these points and also for your continue engagement in the discussion. Energy efficiency in building is the low hanging fruit of the energy tree. It is not necessary expensive as people tends to believe. For example: a good orientation of a building can make significant saving in term of cooling needs. Behavior change is also very important in energy demand management. It is therefore not just the technology but different actions and strategies that reduce energy demand.

Sustainable Energy Africa (Non Profit Company)
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 11.55 am

If I specifically consider SDG 7 (which support SDG 11) in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa which is where I work, the targets in the Goal seek to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030.  This surely represents a daunting challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa.  Frankly, we will struggle to achieve this given the currently low modern energy access levels in Sub-Saharan Africa unless resource flows to this cause increase exponentially.  There are few promising signs of this happening as far as I can see. That’s the first point I’d like to make.

Secondly, initial results from our modeling work indicate that the future of energy in the sub-continent will primarily be urban, not rural.  We are estimating 76% of total energy use will be urban by 2040 (compared with the current approx. 35%). So we need resources to flow to urban areas, not just rural areas.  We are not going to change the national energy profile to be more sustainable unless we change the urban energy profile.

Thirdly, while national level, for example utility-scale, support and upgrading programmes are essential to accelerate access to electricity, it is now widely recognized that local government will need to be a key player in the pursuit of sustainable energy, and will need to be capacitated and resourced accordingly.  National governments seem very slow in realizing this.  Capacity of local government is currently well below what is required, as is their resource base.

Having said that, I would also like to point out that existing local government mandates do officially empower them to play a significant role in sustainable energy – for example in areas such as urban planning, transport planning, and building plan approvals, amongst others.  These are enormous areas of energy use.

Lastly, let me comment on a few renewable and more sustainable energy areas which I know have potential and are applicable in much of urban Africa:

  1. Rooftop grid-integrated solar PV: in overviews of the Sub-Saharan electricity sector this is surprisingly seldom mentioned.  With fast reducing global solar PV prices, it can become increasingly important as a component of national generation capacity with a suitable regulatory environment, and it has the advantage that it is privately funded.  It does not, however, work well with a national grid that suffers regular load shedding.
  2. Building plans: current buildings being erected all over the sub-continent are energy inefficient, and commit occupants to high-energy use and hi-costs for 30-plus years. Changing planning approval processes to include energy efficiency criteria is surely one of the lowest-hanging, hi-impact, easiest interventions to be prioritized.
  3. Landfill waste methane for electricity generation: this definitely has potential in the higher volume waste sites (1000 tons per day or more is sometimes used as a guideline), but often depends on carbon revenue for financial viability – which is currently not dependable.  It also requires that landfill sites are relatively well-managed, which is frequently not the case.  In theory the potential is therefore significant, but the practicalities often render many projects unfeasible.
  4. Urban transport planning (which is closely linked with spatial planning): as mentioned by a previous commentator, this is a huge area of energy use with vast potential for saving, not to mention the economic and social burden of the congestion resulting from dysfunctional transport systems.  Yet most urban development in Sub-Saharan Africa remains untransparent and unplanned. A sustainable future requires attention to this critical area.
Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat Moderator from Kenya
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 08.04 pm

Dear Colleague from Sustainable Energy Africa, thank you very much for your contribution. Sub Saharan Africa definitely needs to generate more energy to achieve the universal energy access goal. Three – quarter of energy will be consumed in urban areas. In your view, do you see local governments becoming independent power producers (IPP) using renewable energy sources? 

On the issue of energy wastage in buildings resulting from poor thermal design, from your experience, can the adoption by national or local governments of energy efficiency building codes or standards reduce the energy demand?

Ruud Kempener – Discussion Moderator Renewable energy analyst;
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 04.20 pm

Many thanks for your insightful comments. At IRENA, we are doing a lot of work on mini-grids to bring renewable power to rural areas. Do you think that this technology could also faciliate the deployment of renewables in urban settings in Sub-Saharan Africa (and empower local governments at the same time)? Any experiences you are aware of?

Asian Institute of Technology
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 02.53 pm

I think the question needs to be rephrased if the main topic of discussion is “how our cities can achieve energy sustainability”. Renewable Energies are just one piece of the energy sustainability puzzle and we are continuously in search of new and innovative technologies to harness the various forms of renewable energies to meet our urban energy needs. For example, it is possible to tap the urban biodegradable waste into biogas that can be used as cooking fuel or even compressed to be used as fuel for transportation. Biogas slurry can be used as nutrients for edible plants that can supply food to the urban population. Technologies such as the hybrid solar systems developed by Solarus can produce both heat and electricity simultaneously, substituting greater amount of fossil fuels than the stand-alone solar thermal or solar photovoltaic systems. Geothermal and earth energy can be tapped through simple heat exchangers to heat or cool human habitats in certain favorable locations. The list can be very long.

However, achieving energy sustainability in the cities can be considered as a 3-step process: “Defining the need, adopting energy efficiency, switching to renewable energy”. The first question we need to ask, be it for our buildings, industries or transportation, etc.: “What is the best infrastructure we need to create that will need the least amount of energy to deliver the energy service that we need in the form of lighting, heating, cooling, cooking, moving from one location to another, supplying food, water, disposing waste…?” A holistic approach to planning the urban infrastructure itself will allow us to reduce our energy needs by a factor of 2, 3, 4 or more. The next question to ask is: “What would be the best option to deliver the same goods/services with the least amount of energy?” This is where there are a lot of demand management options for cities to adopt leap-frogging technologies to divide their energy needs further by several factors. For example, a compact fluorescent lamp replacing an incandescent lamp allows to divide the energy needs by a factor of 4 without compromising the quality of lighting. Further, a LED lamp replacing the compact fluorescent lamp allows to further divide the energy needs by another factor 2. And then one can ask the final question: “what could be the possible ways to substitute the need for fossil fuels by alternatives that are renewable and environmentally-benign?”.

Those who are interested to know more about this approach can refer to a publication of UN HABITAT entitled “Sustainable Urban Energy: A Sourcebook for Asia”.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat from Kenya
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 08.39 pm

Very interesting comments and suggestions indeed. There are in fact a lot of untapped energy potentials in and around cities. The six sources of renewable energies namely: hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and sea wave are unequally distributed but at least one of them can be found in any given urban area. They should be put into use to address the energy shortage.

Holistic urban planning that integrates other sectors (transport, buildings, services, infrastructures etc.) seems to be the entry point to achieve sustainable urban development. From your experience, what will be the place of a municipal energy strategy/policy? 

Asian Institute of Technology
Sat, January 16, 2016 at 04.57 am

The municipal policy/strategy should be to set a progressive target to achieve higher percentage of energy independence over a time frame with a clear road map and milestones. The municipality should explore all options to identify and overcome the barriers, starting with the pricing of energy so that it not only includes the direct costs but also the externalities such as depeltion of resources, impact on the local and global environment (e.g. health impact of the transportation fuel). The revenue generated through the “Polluter Payer” principle should be used to incentivize the energy consumers  so that they become “prosumers” (so that they share the responsibility of producing wholly or partially the energy they consume). The incentive could be linked to the efforts made by the energy users to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels by adopting the least-cost option that includes energy modesty, energy efficiency and adoption of technology to harness the local renewable/alternative energy sources). Sustainable infrastructure can be promoted by promulgating standards and regulations (for buildings, industry, transportation, appliances, etc.) that are well suited to the local context.

Last but not least, municipalties need to make serious awareness/sensitization efforts to make the urban population better aware of the future impacts of their present decisions and the importance of adopting behavioral and lifestyle changes (asking the question: what is the energy service actually needed to have a lifestyle that meets the present needs without jeopardizing the future generation, and how to create infrastructure that minimizes the need for energy to meet the required energy services).

Design Marks
Thu, January 14, 2016 at 11.59 pm

I believe that the most suitable solution is dependent on the urban context. For existing urban settlements, rooftop solar home systems (SHS) are the best solutions, especially in urban slums. Also the conversion of municipal waste into methane gas for household consumption will be most approriate.

For expanding cities with areas of rapid urban expansion, the appropriate solution will be to designate reserved areas for microgrids of hybrid solar and bio energy to serve the local communities.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator “Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat” from Kenya
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 08.52 pm

Thank you. We need to use energy sources that are available locally and design systems (SMART) that are suitable to the context. Who should do that? (the private sector, individual, municipality, government, the power utility?) in your city for exemple, is the power utility company working on renewable energy?

John Ede President
Thu, January 14, 2016 at 10.06 pm

I will talk about Nigeria, I will advocate for solar energy. This is because, some part of Nigeria, especially the north is endowed with abundant sunlight, where you can get some 10 hours of sunlight pa day, and for months averagely some places can have as much as 8 months of such inflow of sunlight. 

This Hugh potential can be tapped and converted to useful energy, from rooftops to stand alones, urban to rural settlements. 

This clean source of energy can help meet the energy needs of Nigeria, and the source is clean, just not affordable in some quarters to install and convert to solar power for use.

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator Chief Urban Energy Unit, “Chief Urban Energy Unit, UN-Habitat” from Kenya
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 09.03 pm

Well noted and thank you for sharing. What about other renewable energy sources such as municipal solid and liquid waste? hydro and wind? relying solely on one source of energy may not guaranty energy security! What is you take?

dania@arquitectura.cujae.edu.cu Professor from Cuba
Thu, January 14, 2016 at 08.58 pm

More appropriate renewabe energy for cities in general is solar energy that could be used anywhere for heating, photovoltaic generation, drying, etc.

Wind energy could also be used by appropriate tecnology for power generation, water pumping and so on.

Biomass could be another important energy source, mainly taking advantage of urban residues.

All these energies could be used in every urban area, despite its morphology, compact or disperse.

Ruud Kempener – Discussion Moderator Renewable energy analyst;
Fri, January 15, 2016 at 04.25 pm

Is ocean energy an option that is being explored in Cuba? Especially as many cities would be located close to the shoreline?

Vincent Kitio – Discussion Moderator from
Thu, January 14, 2016 at 09.41 am

Welcome to the online dialogue on sustainable energy and cities for the Abu Dhabi Thematic Meeting. I’m delighted to be moderating this discussion and looking forward to hearing from you. In particular, I’m interested in urban energy challenges and opportunities. Let me start the discussion by saying that energy access and urbanization are interlinked. Energy is the driver of urbanization. Without proper energy access, proper infrastructure cannot be provided. So are the basic services and the provision of human settlements. Energy consumption contributes also to environmental pollution, greenhouse gaze emission and climate change. For cities and towns to develop in a sustainable way, we need also to generate and consume energy sustainably. Developing countries need to generate more energy to address the rising demand from the growing urban population and also for creating wealth. The big question is: How can this be achieved without compromising the environment? I look forward to a useful discussion.

Shweta Singh Shweta Singh, Purdue University from United States
Wed, January 13, 2016 at 11.38 pm

Solar is definitely very promising in all types of cities, however citizens are generally concerned about reliability. So, energy storage will be a big part of adoption of solar energy. Further, in really dense developed cities with very old infrastructure, people may not be willing to invest in solar panels because the cost may outweigh benefits. In those cities, greater impact can come from greening the grid itself, so central adoption of renewable energy for electricity provisioning.

Another way people can adopt more green energy is by making available solar charged battery, many modern homes are running appliances that are not plugged in but just charged, if the market makes available a solar charged battery that they can use for charging devices, they may be inclined to buy it, because they are getting reliable source without much change in their own infrastructure. Changing human behaviour will be tough in well established city, the least effort solutions will make the most impact. 

Ruud Kempener – Discussion Moderator Renewable energy analyst;
Wed, January 13, 2016 at 01.10 pm

Welcome to the online dialogue on sustainable energy and cities for the Abu Dhabi Thematic Meeting. I’m delighted to be moderating this discussion and looking forward to hearing from you. As an analyst for the International Renewable Energy Agency, I have been responsible for assessing renewable energy options in different regions, countries, and sectors (industry, transport, power, buildings). In my opinion, cities are one of the most fascinating but also most complex topics to study. Each city has its unique features,  and cities differ within a country as well as across countries. That is why I am very interesting in hearing more about your successes and failures in promoting and creating renewable energy cities. I look forward to a useful discussion.”

Isaac Frimpong Mensa-Bonsu Public Servant – Planner from Ghana
Tue, January 12, 2016 at 08.19 pm

It depends on the geographical location of the city within the climatic zones. I believe solar has a great potential. Solar rooftop programme is gaining grounds. The price of solar technology is also going down. Promoting solar rooftops will create more jobs. It is cleaner.

Ruud Kempener – Discussion Moderator Renewable energy analyst;
Thu, January 14, 2016 at 05.36 am

Do you think it will be mostly solar rooftop, or will there be other ways to integrate solar into cities? And if yes, how could growing cities adjust their infrastructure to make it happen?

Fernando Camacho Sandoval from
Thu, January 14, 2016 at 03.10 pm
Las azoteas será un fuente importante para energía doméstica, sin embargo, ya hay grandes empresas que está invirtiendo en generación de energía solar construyendo parque fotovoltáicos para suministrar energía a empresas a gran escala, es una fuente alternativa menos contaminantes, incluso para autos eléctricos.

2016-01-13 23:41 GMT-06:00:

You can p

Fernando Camacho Sandoval, Universidad Autonómica de Aguascalientes y Secretaria de Gestión Urbanística y Ordenamient from Mexico
Wed, January 13, 2016 at 08.22 pm

Efectivamente, depende de la ciudad, ya que algunas pueden desarrollar más la energía solar que otras. Por ejemplo, en Aguascalientes tenemos muchos días con sol, lo cual puede utilizarse energía solar.

Otra puede ser la energía producida con residuos sólidos o bien con lodos procedentes de aguas residuales, lo cual puede producir biogás. Sin embargo, todavía en la ciudad no tenemos la tecnología e infraestructura para producirla, pero puede ser una alternativa en el mediano plazo.