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Published on January 10th, 2015 | by James Ayre


Cities Powered 100% By Renewable Energy? Avaaz Campaign Aims To Get 100 Cities To Commit

January 10th, 2015 by  

A world full of numerous cities powered 100% by renewable energy may sound like something of a pipe dream (for now, anyways) but that isn’t stopping the noted campaigning organization Avaaz from aiming for just such a goal.

Avaaz recently sent a petition to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, featuring the signatures of ~2.2 million people. It requested that local, national, and international leaders make the transition to 100% renewable energy. Avaaz is currently aiming to get at least 100 cities around the world to join its campaign over the next year.

uk wind turbines solar panels

“Last year people took to the streets to demand a shift to clean energy, and this year these same people will be making that goal a reality, one town at a time,” noted Bert Wander, a senior campaigner at Avaaz. “Cities all over the world have already started announcing 100% clean-energy targets, and where cities lead, entire countries can follow.”

Worth noting is that, reportedly, this initiative is being run by members at the local level — which is apparently in contrast to many other high-profile Avaaz campaigns.

According to Wander: “A renewables revolution is happening right now, and in just a few months it’s gone from pipe dream to mainstream, with countries including Norway and Uruguay flicking the ‘clean’ switch, and cities such as Frankfurt, Seattle and Copenhagen doing the same. We hope that cities and towns across Britain will follow their lead this year.”

Certainly not a bad goal. As it stands, the UK has seen more than 150,000 people who have signed up for the campaign.


Commenting on the necessity for such a city-based approach, one of the petition organizers, Jon Crooks, noted: “Governments aren’t committing to this (the 40-70% carbon-emissions reduction by 2050 target set by the IPCC). But if we can get cities to commit, then governments will have to respond. This is the right fit for Manchester right now. The city is to get an elected mayor and things that can be done to make a city 100% clean, like sustainable transport and housing, could become real electoral issues.”

And it most certainly is something that needs to be addressed in one way or another — the effects of climate change on the world and its social/political systems are predicted to be quite nasty over the coming decades. The sooner that the issue is addressed, the more that these effects can be potentially be lessened.

Image Credit: UK wind turbines and solar panels in Cornwall via Shutterstock

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Casper

    Add Burlington VT to that list!

  • Disgusted

    Anyone who’s paying attention knows how this is going to work out.

    1.  The “all-renewable” city will put up a bunch of PV panels and maybe go “virtual net metering” with shares in one or more wind farms.  They will stay connected to the grid.

    2.  When electricity imports and exports net to close to zero for the year, they will declare victory.  Their motor fuel, heating fuel and embodied energy of products consumed will not be counted.

    3.  Consumers elsewhere who are bearing the costs of their backup power and other externalized burdens will fume, and maybe get a state legislature or two to overturn the local RPS or something.

    4.  Once the total price tag is published, the tax credits that enable the whole thing will be repealed in the next Congress.

  • RobMF

    Fantastic effort!

  • John Ihle

    Local effort is where it’s. Communication and communicating facts to the ratepayer is key.

  • Vensonata

    It’s good to remember (…there should be nice graphic somewhere), that cities can be the size of countries in population. Toronto equals Denmark or Norway or Scotland. Tokyo equals Canada or California. Chicago equals Israel ( and has higher violence statistic) Mumbai equals all of Scandinavia. It is hard to get perspective on this crazy toboggan ride to carbon sanity.
    James Wimberly mentioned green peace. Think: 1970, 6 guys drinking and smoking in a rather seedy “beer parlour” in Vancouver. Writer types, hippies or otherwise simply sane but slightly wacky. They decide to go on a fish boat to the far north to protest a nuke test. Voila, an enormous force for change is created.

    • Vensonata

      I see that 41 countries of the 243 countries in the world, have less than 1 million population. Pitcairn has a population of 54. Let’s make those 41 countries 100% renewable. Then to the next 30 countries, which are between 1 and 10,000 million. And so on. It has a nice PR ring “41 countries are now 100% renewable” (BBC announcer).

      • vorten

        That is poetic in that the least of nations in terms of wealth and prosperity become the best of nations in terms of sanity and respect and care of Earth. Think of the American/Native Indian nations becoming the first with 100 percent renewable energy as the base of their freedom from the patronizing US Govt.

  • Fanandala

    That guy is a phantasm, a figment of his own imagination. Maybe Jane Eyre’s brother? There has not been an “Imperial free city of Dortmund” for at least a 150 years. There is no City called Cofbuokheim and no University of Asnide. These names have not been used in a 1000 years. Maybe they were never used.

    • Larmion

      Cofbuokheim is the old name of Bochum, which is very much a real city. I seem to recall Asnide being an old name for the Abbey of Essen, which is again a real city with a university. And Dortmund, of course, is still where it always has been.

      So we can deduce he (she?) hails from the Ruhr area and that he (she?) finds it amusing to use archaic names. Not my cup of tea, but whatever floats his (her?) boat.

  • JamesWimberley

    I’m on the Avaaz mailing list. It doesn’t impress me much. It can get large numbers to sign electronic petitions – precisely because the effort involved in doing so is trivial. Politicians will rate civil society initiatives by personal investment as well as numbers. Say what you like about Greenpeace, the commitment involved in harassing Russian drilling rigs in the Arctic Ocean from tiny boats is of a quite different order. Street marches, as in New York before the climate gabfest, require a lesser but still real effort.

    • Dragon

      Avaaz gets more people to sign those petitions than any other organization I’m familiar with. Those huge numbers matter. They also do a lot of other stuff that can make a huge difference and they win a lot of their battles. I think part of that is they pick battles that are winnable and come up with a lot of creative methods beyond just the huge petition numbers. is a good article about how Avaaz works behind the scenes.

      This 100 cities campaign is the only campaign I can think of where I’ve seen Avaaz ask their members at large to do much more than donate or sign petitions, so it’s a new level of organization for them.

      But really, I haven’t seen any organization that can get many people to do much more than sign petitions and donate. I don’t think Greenpeace has any special gift for inspiring people to action. There will always be a tiny number of really dedicated people willing to go and do things like harass Russian rigs, and Greenpeace just got lucky (or has been around long enough) that those people organized under the Greenpeace name. I’m sure there’s also highly dedicated people organizing under the Avaast name (despite their young age), NoKXL, Rainforest Action Network, 350, and so on.

      Climate change is the first issue that’s inspired more than tiny numbers of people to do anything in America in years, which is sad. I believe the last huge protests were against invading Iraq and they didn’t seem to last long. Occupy was pretty big for awhile but not as big.

  • Martin

    Yes LED use less power and last much longer, but they have an extra benefit, they reduce so called light pollution.

  • Will E

    there is a lot of money to be made by the cities.
    locally produced energy and consumed will bring a lot of tax revenues to the city to pay for education sport health service and cultural activities. Once cities will discover the huge money inflow of clean energy to the city counsil they will line up to transition.
    money now lost overseas.

    • Simple Indian

      City officials should see the money now.

      Then again in places like India, where I live decisions are taken by corrupt officials.

      For example, there are 132,000 streetlights running on sodium vapour or mercury vapour in my city of 800,000 residents. If they replace it with LED power consumption will be 1/4th of present. Generally the guy who makes payment for utility bill takes 10% cut.

      • Vensonata

        There should be a new phrase for this, maybe “clean graft”.

        That said, cities are where it can happen. National governments are unwieldy in Democratic countries. Another phrase came to mind “clean fascism”. That would be where the tyrants are into clean and green. Even dummies seem to understand polluted air is not good for children and other living things!

      • Larmion

        Is the power consumption of an LED really 4 times better than that of more traditional streetlighting?

        The efficiency in lumen per watt is better, but not spectacularly so. A significant saving comes from the fact that LED’s are directional whereas alternatives aren’t (unless reflectors are used, which is often the case at least where I live).

        No doubt that savings are significant, but do you have a source for the 4 times figure?

        Even Cree, which as a major seller of LED solutions has an interest in selling LED, ‘only ‘ promises 30-70% savings. ( )

        Of course, the longer lifespan and the associated reduction in labor and replacement costs also cuts costs hugely, but that has nothing to do with power consumption.

        • JamesWimberley

          Domestic LEDs can be dimmed, unlike CFLs. I suppose the same holds for high-powered street-lighting LEDs. Why should street lights be as bright at 4 am as at 8 pm? They could also be rigged to respond to motion sensors.

        • David in Bushwick

          I hereby ordain you:
          Larmion the Literal

        • spec9

          Well, a 70% savings is a more than 3X improvement (going from 100 energy/light to 30 energy/light means 3 of those 30 energy/light bulbs for each 1 100 energy/light. LEDs can be 4X better (or more) than old common incandescents. Sodium vapor lamps are more efficient than common incandescents so the improvement for street lights won’t be quite as big.

    • Fanandala

      Who is supposed to pay the huge money? the residents with the bottomless pocket? There are too many of them. Industry certainly will not, they pack their bags and move to where electricity is affordable.

      • John Ihle

        You should run a cost analysis on LEDs vs traditional lighting as well as a cost analysis on locally produced energy. Do your own analysis, include a cost projection of electricity rates going forward 10 or 20 years. It may change your opinion re; “Who is supposed to pay the huge money?”. It’s a utilization of facts/planning for the future which is what most expect from community leaders. It can help attract business and keep rates low.
        The resident with “bottomless pocket” is exporting endless dollars for energy.

        • vorten

          I like this reasoning. Since national politics is completely corrupted by corporate cash via lobbies it is best to change tactics and use democracy at the city and county level to change the direction that money flows from fossil fuels to local renewable energy.

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