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Setting the Stage

The process of implementing renewables, including photovoltaics, in urban areas starts with national and regional policy formation and strategies; these set the context in which urban planners create plans for specific urban areas and developments. Plans are then implemented by developers working with builders and architects to construct buildings that meet the needs of the eventual occupiers and residents.

This section focuses on actions taken at the urban planning stage that can successfully set the scene for the implementation of renewables.

In the majority of cities identified as having installed significant amounts of renewable energy over the last 10 years the local municipal government has played a key role in stimulating projects. Key factors identified as being common to cities where large amounts of PV have been installed include:
• A strong local political commitment to the environment and sustainability
• The presence of municipal departments or offices dedicated to the environment, sustainability or renewable energy
Obligations that some or all buildings include renewable energy
Information provision about the possibilities of renewables
Challenging development sites which seem to have inspired some very ambitious renewable energy projects.

Political commitment
In cities where a political commitment to renewables and sustainability has led to successful projects positive results and feedback from the projects has strengthened and reinforced the political commitment and led to further projects. A positive cycle can be set up, with good projects leading to further projects and the continuation of supportive policies. Methods of providing feedback to political bodies that can have a positive impact include:
• winning environmental awards (this can result in positive publicity for the city and in some case monetary prizes that can be used for further projects in renewables)
• ensuring positive impacts on the local economy or consumer’s energy behaviour are identified and fed back to the decision makers.

Presence of municipal departments or offices
Proactive municipal environment/sustainability departments or officers can make an enormous difference. They can play a key role in defining new development areas with a renewable component, linking up developers and architects of suitable building projects with information on renewables and provide assistance in obtaining funding. They are also involved with the drafting of supportive local policies and ensure the wider results of renewable energy projects, such as the impact on the local economy are fed back to political bodies and lead to the continuation of supportive policies.

Obligations to include renewable energy
Obligations to include renewable energy in new developments can take different forms. In the UK a planning rule that 10% of the predicted energy demand from new developments must be supplied by renewables (also known as the Merton rule after the London suburb where it was first applied) is rapidly being taken up by municipal authorities and is a major driver towards the implementation of renewables in the UK.

In the Netherlands entire new cites can be defined in a top down approach and can include requirements for renewables. This has led to some massive projects such as the Stad van der Zon (City of the Sun) in the HAL region (Heerhugowaard, Alkmaar and Langedijk), see case study.

In France and Germany municipalities can define new quarters but the development of individual buildings is up to private investors. The role of the municipality is to set targets and to inform and inspire investors. Some municipalities have found methods of setting specific requirements for the implementation of PV. For example in Gelsenkirchen in Germany the city is imposing solar requirements in the contract of land purchase, see case study.

Decisions to include renewables in a development can also originate from land owners, developers and architects. For example a new solar housing estate is planned close to the Centre of Cologne. Here the landowner plans to create a solar housing estate with around 120 dwellings and set up an architectural competition where 8 well-known architects were invited to realise an urban plan consistent with solar requirements and building types fitting in the concept of solar housing. The project received funding from the energy agency of North-Rhine-Westphalia under a program to stimulate the development of solar estates.

Many of the projects reviewed obtained funding through public funding programmes; however capital funding programmes supporting PV are become rarer. Some projects such as the Schlierberg solar estate in Freiburg and the communal PV power plant in Gleisdorf used innovative financing mechanisms such as shares. There is a Europe wide trend away from capital funding, but enhanced payments for renewable electricity are becoming more widely available. Capital funding tends not be available when obligations are imposed on developers to include a certain proportion of renewable power generation in new developments instead the provision of information is the crucial factor.

Information can be provided by different actors at different stages. Croyden in London was one of the first municipalities to impose a planning rule of 10% renewables contribution for new major developments. They see the main barrier as know-how, not cost, so the Croyden Energy Network’s Green Energy Centre provides advice and support to developers on accessing grants and types of renewable technology to use.

In Lyon the local energy agency organised technical visits to renewable energy systems for housing associations. This initiative led to the La Darnaise project with PV on the facades of refurbished apartment buildings. A major redevelopment of the confluence area near the centre of Lyon is now underway and information is being provided by an informal group of local experts.

Challenging development sites
The final common factor noted in many of the innovative PV developments was that they were often based on challenging development sites. These more challenging sites seem to have inspired creative approaches and led to the inclusion of renewables in some major developments. Examples include projects to redevelop old industrial areas in Lyon, Barrow, and Gelsenkirchen. The inclusion of renewables formed part of a strategy to transform the image of La Darnaise near Lyon which had an image problem due to past riots in the area.

Case studies of all the cities mentioned are being made available on this web-site. Some such as Amersfoort in the Netherlands, Freiburg in Germany, Kirklees in the UK and Gleisdorf in Austria started supporting renewables many years ago and now have a range of renewable installations in their city plus stronger local economies and national reputations as centres of excellence for renewables.

Other cites are midway through a process of promoting renewables and have initiated major developments with PV. These include Gelsenkirchen in Germany, Croyden in the UK, Lyon in France and the Stad van der Zon in the HAL region of the Netherlands. Finally cites such as Cologne and Berlin in Germany and Barrow in the UK are just now starting the process of promoting the installation of renewables.

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