As we launch the second edition of the Renewables in Cities Global Status Report (REC), we find ourselves in a period of global flux. Economic activity and public life have been disrupted around the world. But we have also witnessed an increasing consciousness and public pressure around the importance of clean and healthy living environments – particularly in cities. Citizens are engaging with renewable energy and pushing local and national governments to act. Many decision makers also are becoming aware of the opportunities that renewables offer for a green recovery.

Despite the global challenges triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, we encountered many encouraging stories. Many city governments have installed, purchased or contracted for renewable energy to meet the demand of their own operations. They have also continued to adopt renewable energy targets and to implement policies to incentivise local consumption and generation of renewables, have set net-zero targets and have banned fossil fuels for various uses.

As inspirational as these stories are, we’re still a far cry from what is needed. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “Cities are where the climate battle will largely be won or lost.” Cities are high-impact areas: they are home to more than 55% of the global population and account for around three-quarters of global final energy consumption. Cities also are essential for accelerating the development of renewables in sectors that continue to lag behind, namely buildings and transport. Still, some national governments underestimate the value of cities to achieve national decarbonisation goals. And some city governments do not have the resources and expertise or just may not recognise their critical role in the shift to a renewables-based economy.

Some things don’t change, even with an ongoing global pandemic. We need good, reliable/trusted, and shared data and knowledge to create awareness, inform and convince decision makers, and tell the stories of renewables. At REN21, we collaborate with our international community to provide such data. REC 2021 has benefited from data, expertise and insights from more than 350 renewable energy and city experts, contributors, researchers and authors that have worked together to identify the trends and developments of renewables in cities.

On behalf of the REN21 Secretariat, I would like to thank all those who contributed to the successful production of REC 2021. Special thanks go to all chapter authors; Special Advisors Janet Sawin, Maryke van Staden and Peta Wolpe; Project Manager Lea Ranalder; and the entire team at the REN21 Secretariat. I would also like to thank the Advisory Committee for their guidance, continuous support and pioneering spirit to start building a continuous database to track advancement on renewable energy at the city level.

We hope that REC 2021 will contribute to an active exchange of views on renewables in cities and serve as an inspiration for continuous action to accelerate the uptake of renewables now.

Rana Adib
Executive Director, REN21