Excerpt from chapter 6
Renewable City planning and action:
guides for local government

This book is about achieving local energy autonomy - and this section is specifically aimed at local government politicians and officials who wish to implement change in their organizations. When it comes to change, no department, city official or political leader is an island – urban energy transformations engage new forms of practice at all levels: public policy, market guidance, regulations, public–private partnerships, joint design and management. New local, regional, national and even international policy and practice frameworks are unfolding, too, to support urban transformations in the post-fossil fuel and post-nuclear power age. In keeping with these developments, this section has translated best-practice approaches into a comprehensive model for change, subject to adjustment for local conditions. The new approach seeks strategic planning processes, legislative frameworks and ways of guiding local change in development.

Offered in this chapter is one possible do-it-yourself framework for highly committed cities or alliances of cities that seek guided change. Solar City® offers a guide to renewable energy development as a central objective of a municipality and its communities, businesses, universities, neighborhoods and other constituents. Here, the term ‘solar’ is used in the same way that many renewable energy experts denote most major urban renewable energy sources: as related to the agency of the sun. But for other cities interested in evaluating their general performance, or for those that would like to conduct an ongoing, broader assessment, this first section is followed by a rating framework to evaluate a city’s more general Renewable City performance...

6.1 The Solar City® program

Dynamic cities and urban communities constantly search for new planning and management models. They do so as part of genuine reform efforts, in a search for leaner government, or to devise a more competitive business environment. And many go beyond the normal process of reform, seeking greater efficiency and effectiveness in urban administration to achieve both tangible and visionary outcomes. They see a need to restructure outmoded planning and management arrangements to cope with massive environmental change, but also to deal with the enormous security threats that stem from fossil and nuclear dependency. They want to be ready for the coming global struggle for urban survival. This search is far more serious than the battle for global city status of the 1980s and 1990s to project higher levels of competitive advantage in attracting regional corporate headquarters, creative talent or tourist streams.

The struggle to find a path to the necessary energy transition will also be very much a battle, but one that must be won in close cooperation among cities – in a search for practical techniques of prospering jointly while seeking greater degrees of autonomy. This new kind of collaborative competition for increasing independence from energy and carbon risks will yield more meaningful results than the conventional striving for political hegemony and economic supremacy.

June 1954: Mr H. E. Smith, teacher, stands with the students from South Harringay Primary School who are protecting their eyes as they watch an eclipse of the sun.

photo © Hulton-Deutsch Collection