Report Reveals Strategies for G7 Cities to Tackle Climate Change and Energy Demand

solar panels on top of a commercial trucking building and fulfillment center

Despite cities accounting for three-quarters of global energy use and 70% of emissions, only one in five has pledged to reach net-zero emissions. (Credit: IEA)

by | May 7, 2024

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In the ongoing battle against climate change, the importance of reducing emissions in urban areas cannot be overstated. A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) underscores this necessity, highlighting the pivotal role that urban planning, digitalization, and grid investment can play in mitigating the impacts of climate change while addressing the escalating energy demand.

Presented at the G7 Climate, Energy, and Environment Ministerial Meeting in Turin, Italy, the report Empowering Urban Energy Transitions: Smart Cities and Smart Grids explores innovative projects worldwide to enhance power systems within cities. Acknowledged by ministers in their communique, the report sheds light on emerging best practices for steering cities towards sustainability.

The report’s findings stress the urgency for cities to elevate their ambitions, particularly in enhancing energy efficiency, to meet the targets established at the COP28 climate change conference. While some cities have committed to sustainability and carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets, the majority are yet to follow suit. Currently, cities account for a substantial portion of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, figures set to rise with urbanization trends. As of May 2024, only a fifth of cities have set targets for net-zero emissions.

The escalating urbanization exacerbates the challenges posed by climate change, especially during heatwaves, where electricity consumption surges, primarily driven by cooling needs. This surge, coupled with the growing electrification of the energy sector in cities, necessitates substantial investment in electricity distribution infrastructure.

Digital solutions emerge as pivotal tools in addressing these challenges, offering flexibility and efficiency gains in electricity networks. However, the report underscores the need for increased investment, advocating for a doubling annual grid investment by 2030, amounting to $750 billion globally. Moreover, better alignment of planning timelines and improved data utilization are emphasized as critical strategies to enhance energy infrastructure and decision-making processes.

The report also highlights the importance of international collaboration, particularly among G7 countries, in fostering innovation and creating enabling environments for scalable pilot projects. It underscores the significance of integrated urban and power system planning, alongside enhanced data sharing, in ensuring electricity security and prioritizing clean energy transitions.

As national policymakers contemplate strategies for enabling secure clean energy transitions in cities, the report outlines four key themes for consideration:

  • Putting people at the forefront of policy-making to build resilient cities for the future.
  • Supporting data-driven integrated planning to ensure the adequacy of energy infrastructure.
  • Addressing specific focus areas to cultivate a conducive environment for clean energy transitions.
  • Embracing the benefits of strengthened international cooperation in advancing sustainable urban development.

The IEA will further disseminate the report’s findings during an upcoming webinar. The report is a product of the IEA’s Digital Demand-Driven Electricity Networks Initiative (3DEN), supported by Italy’s Ministry of Environment and Energy Security.

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