Energy Cities: The Case of London

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This Chapter unpacks the complementarities between two key trends: the rising importance of cities as sub-national actors and the rise of distributed generation. The central premise here is that there are potential synergies between the two.

Whereas in the past our electricity was produced almost entirely by a few larger facilities and then transmitted to our homes, these days, with a solar panel on our roof, we can all be part of the energy production cycle. This is known as “distributed generation.” Solar panels are probably the most intuitive example, but distributed generation includes a much wider range of technologies, from diesel powered generators to smart-meters and even tiny wind-turbines that can plug into your phone. Importantly, distributed generation is inherently about producing electricity in close proximity to where it is consumed. Cities, in turn, are particularly well-suited to develop policies that can enable the flourishing of distributed generation, given the jurisdictional powers they typically hold over things like buildings, transport, streets, and more. Cities’ potential in this regard is even greater, given that they house about half of the world’s population, which means many more energy users lie within the city realms. The chapter thus examines whether, and to what extent, cities and local communities advance the transition toward carbon neutral energy by adopting or enabling distributed generation. It does so by drawing an example from one of the most vibrant global cities: London, UK.

The chapter makes two main scholarly contributions. First, it offers a rich description of London’s distributed generation efforts. Second, more broadly, it analyzes the role that cities can play in the transition toward distributed generation, which is particularly significant in an era when more than half of the world lives in cities. By calling attention to the intersection between urban hubs and distributed production of energy, the chapter also contributes to the conceptual discussion regarding the nature of “distributed” governance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Sustainable Cities
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherNew York University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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