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Global Status Report on Local Renewable Energy Policies

(25th September 2009)

Working Draft

City and local governments can play a key role in encouraging renewable energy at the local level. The multiple roles of these local governments–as decision-makers, planning authorities, managers of municipal infrastructure, and role models for citizens and businesses–are crucial to the global transition to renewable energy now underway.

This report provides a global overview of policies and activities by cities around the world to promote renewable energy. It catalogues the policies of 180 cities and local governments in Europe, United States, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, and Japan. The report also gives many specific examples of these policies, and provides more detailed case descriptions for 45 cities. The report shows that local policy and action have become very significant – although few people recognize this fact.

This report makes clear that there are many different approaches to renewable energy policy. The report organizes local policies into an innovative framework showing five main policy categories: (1) target setting; (2) regulation based on legal responsibility and jurisdiction; (3) operation of municipal infrastructure; (4) voluntary actions and government serving as a role model; and (5) information, promotion and raising awareness.

The most common type of policy is target setting. Almost all cities working to promote renewable energy at the local level have established some type of renewable energy or CO2 reduction target. Of the 180 cities and local governments listed in the report, at least 140 have some type of future target for renewable energy and/or CO2.

Another common policy is urban planning that incorporates renewable energy. Of the 180 cities and local governments listed in the report, at least half have some type of urban planning that incorporates renewable energy. One type of policy emerging in recent years is incorporation of renewable energy in building codes or permitting. Of the 180 cities and local governments listed in the report, at least 35 have some type of building code or permitting policy that incorporates renewable energy.

Incorporation of renewable energy into municipal infrastructure and operations takes many forms. A number of cities have decided to purchase green power for municipal buildings and operations. Others are purchasing biofuels for municipal fleets and public transit vehicles. Many cities also invest in renewable energy installations for municipal buildings, schools, and other public facilities. Of the 180 cities and local governments listed in the report, at least 90 have some type of policy related to municipal infrastructure and operations.

Many cities undertake voluntary actions to promote renewable energy and to serve as a role model for the private sector and other groups. Demonstration projects are very common.

Subsidies, grants, and loans for end-users to install renewable energy are also common in some countries and regions; of the 180 cities and local governments listed in the report, at least 50 have these policies. Other voluntary actions include government investment funds and a wide variety of ways to support or facilitate private and community initiative. Some cities choose to subsidize public access biofuels stations and biofuels distribution.

Information and promotion activities are very diverse. Activities by many of the 180 cities and local governments listed in the report include public media campaigns and programs; recognition activities and awards; organization of stakeholders; forums and working groups; training programs; enabling access to finance by local stakeholders; analysis of renewable energy potentials; information centers; and support for demonstration projects.

In recent years, international, regional, national, and state/provincial policies for energy and climate have been increasingly affecting local government policies and actions for renewable energy. For example, local governments are increasingly involved in international climate change discussions. And at national levels, groups of cities and local governments continue to form, expand, plan, and take collective action, sometimes through a national initiative.


  1. The Promise of Local Action for Renewable Energy (4P)
  2. International, Regional and National Influences on Local Renewables (5P)
  3. Types of Local Policies and Activities to Promote Renewable Energy (8P)
  4. Survey of Local Renewable Energy Policies Around the World (11P)
  5. Local Policy Case Summaries for 40 Cities (22P)
  6. Further Research (32P)

A Collaborative Report by

  • REN21 Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century
  • Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP)
  • ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

This report complements the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report by providing more detailed information at the city and local levels about policies and activities to promote renewable energy. It is intended to facilitate dialogue and illuminate pathways for future policies and actions at the local level. This “working draft” version is intended to solicit comments and additional information. Data in this draft are not necessarily complete or accurate.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or views of REN21 or any associated organization. Although the information given in this report is the best available to the authors at the time, REN21 and its participants cannot be held liable for its accuracy and correctness.


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