Learn About the Concept of Solar Cities

India’s rapid urbanization and increasing energy demands are driving its cities towards greater greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the trend is detrimental to the country’s climate change commitments, besides being a highly unsustainable model of urban development.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has therefore initiated the “Development of Solar Cities” programme, under which the aim is to reduce the conventional energy consumption (and consequently GHG emissions) of 60 selected cities by a minimum of 10%.

The objective will be achieved through the adoption of a combination of renewable energy alternatives (with a focus on solar energy) and energy efficiency measures.

The programme is not unique to India, as solar cities are also being developed in Australia and the United States. However, India already has a head start, given the fact that several solar-related programmes – such as the promotion of solar water heater systems, deployment of solar PV systems in urban areas and the design of solar buildings – are already operational in various parts of the country.

MNRE’s Solar Cities programme plans to bring together all such initiatives under a common roof, and provide a holistic framework of renewable energy and energy efficiency related urban energy development.

Based on their population (usually between 0.5 – 50 lakh), potential for renewable energy adoption and energy conservation activities already underway, so far 48 cities across the country have, in-principle, been approved for development under the programme.

Capital sanction (to the tune of Rs. 50 lakh per city) has already been awarded to 31 of these cities, and draft Master Plans developed for 11.

Solar Cities – Master Plans and Actionable Milestones

Each solar city master plan is to be composed of:

1) Baseline energy data and GHG emissions for the city (taken for 2008). The energy data will be an aggregate of sector wise (residential, industrial, commercial, institutional and municipal) figures on energy consumption (electricity, petroleum products, coal, biomass etc.).

2) Projection of the city’s energy demand for the next 10 years

3) Energy planning options for the city – including avenues for energy efficiency measures & adoption of renewable energy options (such as solar, wind, biomass and micro hydro based energy generation)

4) Year wise goals of energy conservation

5) An Action Plan for achieving set energy conservation goals and GHG emission targets

6) Budget estimates for achieving the objectives and the (potential) sources of funding – both public and private.

Each Master Plan will receive up to Rs. 10 lakhs from the MNRE, and will be finalized after discussions within a Stakeholder Consultation Workshop, which will have representation from diverse sections of the city.

The Master Plan will also identify various renewable energy technologies that could be utilized in meeting the energy conservation targets – such as solar generators, rooftop PV systems, solar drying/air heating systems, etc. – and the Plan itself will be supported through stakeholder awareness generation and capacity building activities across the city.

The programme is therefore a practical approach to reducing Indian cities’ conventional energy consumption by the year 2018. The central government is also planning the development of Smart Cities, and the meeting of energy efficiency and renewable energy targets will be an important achievement.

Of course, the success of the programme will hinge upon the degree to which the deliverables under the master plans will be carried out. However, the plan is certainly an important step towards making our cities more sustainable, and in honouring India’s climate change obligations.

To read more about solar cities, click here and here.

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Aniruddha Bhattacharjee
Aniruddha Bhattacharjee
Aniruddha has been a renewable energy researcher and report writer for over 3 years. He has also been a content developer for multiple websites, including portals on travel and tourism, restaurants and personal finance. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a master's in endangered species conservation. Apart from renewable energy, Aniruddha is a keen motor sports and aviation enthusiast, and a beginner in photography.
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