Over the last 10-15 years, there has been growing interest in renewable energy use at the city level. In response, municipalities around the world have taken up the challenging task of trying to track local energy use, rein in demand, and switch to more environmentally benign energy sources. Interest in local action on these topics stems from a variety of explanations. One factor is growing attention to the larger issue of urban sustainabil-ity, a subject highlighted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. One policy initiative coming out of Rio was Local Agenda 21, which specifically focused on the role cities can play in reversing global climate change (UNCED 1992). Groups like Energie-Cites and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) have taken up the banner of local action and are fostering information sharing between communities interested in enacting more 'climate-friendly' policies.
Urban-level interest in energy policymaking is occurring for other reasons as well. Over the past few years, the damaging financial consequences of energy price volatility have led many cities to fear for their local economy (Benson 2002) . Energy conservation programs and the local deployment of renewable power schemes can thus provide a hedge against price spikes (Wiser et al. 2005), greatly benefiting the local economy during peak electricity demand periods. Other cities are responding to concerns about energy security, believing it makes sense to generate power locally using technologies that do not rely on imported fuel sources. Post-September 11 fears of terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants and liquid natural gas terminals near cities raise a completely different set of energy security and public health concerns (Hall Hayes 2005; Hebert 2005; Lyman 2004). Finally, cities are also concerned about the localized emission impacts of power production, including air quality in the vicinity of power plants. In many cities, these facilities are found near low income or predominately minority communities, giving rise to claims of environmental racism (San Francisco Department of the Environment 2002).
Urban renewables policymaking also deserves our attention by virtue of the fact that cities are an important part of the global energy equation. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates cities account for 60-80% of the total energy demand in OECD member countries (Capello et al. 1999). As the world is growing increasingly urbanized, the proportion of global energy use consumed in cities will likely rise as well. Improving our understanding of the dynamics of local energy policymaking takes on new relevance given these trends. Few academic studies have been undertaken in this area, and policymakers and practitioners seeking to develop citywide strategies would thus benefit from information on the logic behind other cities' approaches to these issues.
This chapter attempts to explain the underlying dynamics of renewables policymaking in London and New York City, two leading world cities (Sassen 2001). There are many parallels between the two cities, both in terms of size, and how each holds considerable financial and cultural sway over the countries and continents where they are located. Both cities have also undertaken significant local energy planning efforts in recent years, although the factors driving action and the policy approaches pursued in each city are vastly different.
There are symmetries between the two cities' energy plans, linked to the subordinate role each city plays on most energy planning matters. This situation is not unique to New York and London - indeed, most cities similarly have a constrained capacity to act, limited by state or national laws or rules specifically designed to rein in the energy policymaking powers of local authorities. This chapter begins by briefly discussing different ways cities can engage on energy policy matters. It then moves on to examine local renewable energy policymaking in London and New York City, and concludes by distilling common themes and lessons relevant to other large cities around the world.
Was this article helpful?