Solar Cities and Regions: Driving city climate and energy security goals

by Lily Murdoch - 13 July 2023
With three quarters of the European population living in urban areas, the bulk of energy consumption is happening on cities' territory – around 80% in the European Union. The number of people living in cities is constantly growing, and so is city demand for sustainable electricity, transport, heating, and cooling.

Cities are at the frontline of the energy transition. Solar is one of the key solutions to support cities in reducing their energy-related emissions and providing access to cheap, reliable energy for all! Furthermore, cities offer lots of rooftops and building space for solar PV to be placed, vital to ensuring Europe meets its energy and climate ambitions.


Ultimately, solar can support cities, and cities can support solar.

In this blog series, we will highlight 21 solar solutions for cities in the energy transition, starting off with how solar can help drive city climate and energy security goals.

Photo: © Moyan Brenn


Deploying solar power in cities goes beyond private rooftops. When it comes to providing access to solar power for citizens, municipalities and solar project developers offer several business models to adapt to the size, location, and characteristic of local communities. Each model provides flexibility for citizens’ involvement, both as producers and consumers of renewable energy. 


One of the biggest challenges that cities are facing is the limited area to deploy solar projects, and sometimes the difficulty for citizens to engage in the energy transition. This difficulty arises from a lack of rooftop space and upfront costs. 


But good news! There are different solutions to address these issues, from powering public buildings, to integrating solar in buildings.

Solution 1: Solar Powering Public Buildings

When it comes to deploying solar PV installations, one obvious candidate for cities and local authorities are their public building stock. On top of local governmental buildings, cities also have schools, swimming pools, libraries – all which typically benefit from large rooftop surfaces. The installation of solar PV on municipal buildings not only helps cities deliver their goals, but leads its population by example. Such schemes can be encouraged via solar rooftop mandates or by innovative tariffs schemes.


In Brussels, the SolarClick programme was launched in February 2017. The programme’s objective was to increase the installation of solar panels on government buildings to support its climate goals. The region wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025 (compared to 1990), and double the renewable energy production by 2020 to 4% (from 2% in 2013).


The goal is to install solar PV panels on 85,000 m2 of public rooftops (schools, hospitals, administrative buildings, etc.) by 2020. This will allow decreasing CO2 emissions of around 5,500 tonnes.

Photo: ©Francisco Conde Sánchez

Solution 2: Solar Powering Public Services

In 2019, the city of Amsterdam launched the Flexpower initiative - the largest smart charging network for electric vehicles, which maximises the use of renewable energy, lowers the burden on the electric grid, and accelerates the charging speed during off-peak periods. 


Amsterdam launched Flexpower to sustainably manage the increasing number of electric vehicles alongside the growth of the city, but also to better utilise the greater capacity of renewable energy coming online. As the city of Amsterdam is growing, the load on the electricity grid during peak hours will increase. A part of this increasing load will come from charging electric vehicles. Therefore, smart charging will be needed to help mitigate power peak loads on the electricity grid.

Solution 3: Building-Integrated Solar PV

Cities are also facing challenges to use solar energy: in historical centres of cities, solar projects risk conflicting with architecture and historical heritage conservation. The capital-intensive investment in solar technologies might also deter certain municipalities from making the necessary leap to solar energy. Cities and solar developers have therefore developed solutions to integrate solar PV in the urban landscape – on rooftop and beyond. 


The solar developer Akuo Energy is providing innovative and building-integrated solutions to the municipality of Rennes, in France. The project provides for the construction of three wooden structures located in a priority urbanisation area (zone d'aménagement concerté or ZAC de la Tremelière, in the town of Le Rheu), which use different solar PV techniques, including on a community hall roof and a carport.

Photo: © Akuo Energy


Download the full report here, and listen to our solar cities podcast here.


Stay tuned for more solar city solutions!

Header image: © Valencia Clima y Energia