Top 10 Cities in Power Generation and Distribution

Power generation and distribution is a top priority for cities, as they are planning for the future. 

In our WSP Global Cities Index: A Tale of Our Cities, power is considered a high-risk area as it requires government alignment, buy-in from industry, well-articulated policy and achievable targets. Power generation and distribution is also closely linked with greenhouse gas emissions and therefore impacts cities’ climate change strategies, and residents’ health.

Successfully implementing new strategies to satisfy growing energy demand, while meeting the challenges of resiliency, reliability, and security, requires creativity and technical innovation. It also requires committed leadership and effective policy-making. Discover ten cities that have strong policies in place to bring power to the people.

10. Stockholm

Score: 6.3/10. About 80 percent of the energy used for heating in Stockholm comes from district heating (hot water through insulated pipes), and 15 percent from electricity. The city’s energy consumption remains unchanged, even though the population is increasing.

Still, more efficient energy usage and renewable energy sources are needed to reduce the greenhouse effect.

Stockholm has developed a climate and energy strategy as well as a strategy for a fossil-fuel free city by 2040 to reduce the city’s environmental impact. For energy efficiency in buildings, the goal is to make energy consumption 20 percent more efficient in 2020 compared to 2008. For energy production, the goal is to lower energy-related emissions by 30 percent per citizen in 2020 compared to 2005 and by 40 percent in 2030.

Read the full city report - Stockholm


Score: 6.4/10. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is the exclusive provider of electricity services in Dubai. One of the core objectives of DEWA is to support Dubai Plan 2021 by promoting sustainable development by using energy efficiently and investing in alternative energy sources.

By 2030, DEWA aims to generate 71 percent of its total power output from natural gas, 12 percent from nuclear power, 12 percent from clean coal and 5 percent from renewables. At the same time, it hopes the demand for energy will fall by 30 percent.

DEWA also has a role to play in trying to make Dubai the world’s smartest city within three years through three ground-breaking programs:

  • Installing photovoltaic solar panels on houses and buildings to generate electricity to be used on the premises or fed back into its grid
  • Providing smart metres that give automatic and detailed readings, allowing customers to monitor actual consumption and manage bills
  • Establishing electric vehicle infrastructure and charging stations around the city.
Read the full city report - Dubai


Score: 6.5/10. Manchester has plans to become a zero-carbon city by 2050 and the starting point for achieving it is a CAD26 million investment fund, although reports on the way forward have not been produced. As part of Horizon 2020, funding has been provided by the European Union for the Triangulum project, which aims to develop smart, low-carbon and energy-saving solutions.

The Core Strategy for Manchester aims to facilitate an increase in the use of low-carbon, decentralized and renewable technologies. Actions to achieve this are not detailed. The Energy Action Plan also has strategies to maximize the opportunity for supply of energy from renewable sources.

Read the full city report - Manchester


Score: 6.8/10. London’s Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy contains projections for renewable energy technology installations up to 2031, and supplementary planning guidance supports these projections.

The Mayor has set a target to generate a quarter of London’s energy from decentralized sources by 2025, through three main policy frameworks: identification of energy opportunities, their delivery through the planning system and enabling commercialization of a decentralized energy market. Despite this policy framework, regulations are not favourable because transmission and distribution networks impose access charges that are relatively high and reduce the viability of investment schemes.

The new London Plan sets out a refocus to energy generation around heat pumps (including using secondary heat sources) and a move away from gas heating, which will increase local generation for individuals and businesses, and reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions.

Read the full city report - London


Score: 6.8/10. The City of Toronto has committed to an ambitious set of city-wide energy and GHG reduction targets, including a goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

The city has also pledged to increase renewable and district energy generation. A Design Guideline for District Energy-Ready Buildings has been compiled for building developers and owners, architects and engineers. The city has identified almost 30 locations with the potential to support new district energy systems (usually hot water, steam or chilled water piped from a central plant).

There are several smart grid/city/metering initiatives being spearheaded by the private sector, but not the City of Toronto. However, the city does have a district energy initiative that will ultimately rely on smart controls.

Read the full city report - Toronto


Score: 7.0/10. With a 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 target in mind, the city has continued its efforts in expanding district energy networks. One of the priorities until 2020 is to develop four new neighbourhood energy systems, convert two existing steam heat networks to renewable energy and to develop and implement a renewable energy strategy.

Vancouver has been focusing on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investments for the past five years. The city, as well as the province of BC, has created multiple funding and support opportunities for the generation of clean energy, residential and commercial use of clean energy and the innovation of clean-energy technologies.

The adoption of smart grid infrastructure is addressed briefly in the Renewable City Strategy. However, set plans and funding for this have not yet been outlined.

Read the full city report - Vancouver


Score: 7.0/10. DC seeks to modernize the power generation and distribution systems to achieve its climate change goals established within the 2013 Sustainable DC Plan.

While the district does not have a formal goal to secure 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, the Clean Energy DC plan establishes progressive, at present unfunded, recommendations that will be needed for a zero-carbon future.

Clean Energy DC promote the renewable energy agenda by providing recommendations to advance regulatory overhaul and strategic planning efforts. This includes developing a solar proliferation strategy, a centralized solar information and commerce platform, a neighbourhood-scale microgrid energy strategy, and a fossil fuel heating study.

Pepco, the district’s energy supplier, has already completed an advanced metering infrastructure project by switching out more than 99 percent (>296,000) of traditional metres for smart metering.

Read the full city report - Washington, DC


Score: 7.3/10. New York’s power supply is among the least carbon-intensive in the US, with nuclear and hydro generation accounting for half its needs. Although distributed generation resources are growing, the city does not control the grid generation assets. The official goal is to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Con Edison serves the private market, and New York Power Authority has a role in supplying public sector buildings. The city and Con Edison have supported state-level initiatives to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energy and reduce GHG emissions.

New York and Con Edison are leaders in smart grid infrastructure. By 2022, five million more smart metres will be installed. Private investors are working to install energy storage technologies behind the metre to support load shifting and ancillary electric services.

Read the full city report - New York


Score: 7.3/10. Edinburgh’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan includes targets of 30 percent of overall energy demand met by renewables by 2020.

Some renewable projects are being funded to help increase the renewables proportion of the energy mix, including the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative SolarPV project using 25 council buildings, a review of potential sites for solar farms including unused council lands and former landfill sites, exploring the potential for large-scale application of PV for car parking and hydrogen combined heat and power systems installed in six locations.

The council has set up Energy for Edinburgh, an energy services company that will be charged with delivery of major energy initiatives included in the Sustainable Energy Action Plan.

Read the full city report - Edinburgh


Score: 7.4/10. California is a leader in clean energy technology. San Francisco, with its unique position at the centre of clean technology, seeks to support emerging energy generation technologies.

The plan is to meet 100 percent of electricity demand with renewable power by 2023, and to achieve these goals, the city will need public policy, funding and financing mechanisms, and public education and outreach. Here is the plan:

  • Improving energy efficiency to reduce total demand

  • Increasing in-city renewable distributed generation to reduce the need for imported green power

  • Providing all SF customers with 100 percent renewable power purchasing options.

Read the full city report - San Francisco

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