Cities with 100% Renewable Energy: 5 years after the Paris Agreement, have its promises been kept?

Let’s take stock and explore the keys to success according to 4 Energy Cities members

In 2015, following the Paris Agreement at COP21, hundreds of cities embarked on a journey towards 100% renewable energy, thanks to the mobilisation of local authorities and civil society, and the adoption of the French Law on energy transition.

The approach each city adopts to reach this target varies depending on the natural resources available at local level and in nearby areas, on the priority given to energy efficiency, on energy carriers, on consumption habits and on stakeholders.

Five years on, Energy Cities, the CLER network for energy transition and the Réseau Action Climat (RAC) France held a webinar during the Biennial of Cities in Transition 2021 in Grenoble. Four of our members, Geneva, Lorient, Paris and Strasbourg, presented their approach and identified the key actions needed to reach this ambitious goal.

100% renewable – one goal, many strategies

The city of Paris has added the 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality by 2050 targets to its Climate Plan, positioning it at the crossroads of all the key issues in order to reach as many local services and stakeholders as possible. But Paris still has a long road ahead to reach its goal of 100% renewable energy – in 2020, 21% of consumption was from renewable energy and 7% of renewable energy was produced locally.

The Lorient agglomeration, which was awarded the Cit’ergie Gold label in 2020, explained that reaching its desired level of self-sufficiency by 2050 will also be a way to balance usage and local production. Currently, 7.5% of renewable electricity is locally produced, which is expected to increase to 13% within 2 years. In 2020, renewable energy accounted for 33% of consumption, and the 2022 target is 44%. It is important to note that the city is also strongly committed to reducing its energy consumption. It has already seen a 20% decrease between 2010 and 2020, and aims to achieve a 40% cut by 2030.

The Eurometropolis of Strasbourg is also working towards self-sufficiency and local resilience by 2050. Energy production, consumption and control form the core of this strategy, and one of its aims is to halve energy consumption by 2050. Renewable energy currently accounts for 17% of energy use.

In 2006, the Canton of Geneva adopted a ‘100% renewable energy by 2050’ strategy for its city building heating needs, which clearly redefined the principles of its energy policy. This strategy involves a first step of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the transition to gas, Geneva successfully reduced its CO2 emissions by nearly 30%. The second part of its strategy is efficiency, in particular for refurbishment work. Geneva is also exploring the social aspect of renewable energies – what are the trade-offs of producing and distributing this energy?

Is mobilising services, economic players and citizens the key to success?

« Cities cannot reach these goals if they go it alone. We must involve everyone – all of our local stakeholders, citizens and businesses »

Here too, the strategies vary: Strasbourg focuses on a cross-cutting strategy aiming to build a shared energy culture within all of its departments. It has recently launched an information campaign about geothermal energy, as well as an assessment. The energy strategy must be shared, publicised and understood in order to get civil society and economic stakeholders involved.

Paris is also working on building a shared culture in order to link all emerging projects to renewable energy and develop partnerships, such as the urban-rural partnership to facilitate the emergence of local projects

Lorient is basing its strategy on organisations, autonomous public service undertakings, the SEM port and especially on the local energy agency, ALOEN, which launched the ‘Mes voisins sont formidables’ (My neighbours are wonderful) initiative in 2021, which collects stories illustrating positive local initiatives.

Geneva’s strategy involves supporting its citizens, raising awareness and learning about their consumption patterns. For instance, on 21 May, the city is repeating its ‘La nuit est belle’ (The night is beautiful) initiative. Beyond providing citizens with an incredible opportunity to stargaze and protecting nocturnal biodiversity, it sparks dialogue about the use of public and private lighting, including in store fronts and banks.

Watch a replay of the webinar to learn more about these 4 cities’ strategies and initiatives. (in French)Villes 100% ENR : 5 ans après l’accord de Paris, promesse tenue ?“.