The leading renewable energy capital in the world
Renewable Energy in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is Iceland's capital and its largest city. Reykjavik, Iceland, has pioneered the use of geothermal power for citywide district heating. Reykjavik meets nearly all of its electricity and heating needs from renewable resources (from hydroelectric and geothermal sources).
For electricity, Reykjavik sources about 73% from hydroelectricity and about 27% from geothermal. For heating, Reykjavik sources geothermal energy. A few large geothermal power plants provide most (95%) of the Reykjavik area buildings' heating and hot water needs.
Iceland's renewable energy production has nearly made the country energy independent.
Iceland is the leading nation worldwide in geothermal energy (when based on per capita capacity). For Reykjavik's buildings, about 95% of heating is provided by geothermal district heating.
Much of the reason that Iceland leads the world in renewable energy and geothermal district heating is due to renewable energy sourced from the unique topography of the country.
Iceland has abundant natural geothermal resources such as around 600 hot springs, geysers, and other geothermal hot water sources generated by geothermal heat from (mostly dormant) volcanoes.
Also see: Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland
The Reykjavik Municipal Plan 2010-2030
Reykjavik has a relatively small population for a European capital city (Iceland itself has ≈ 376,000 people as of 2022). Reykjavik has a population of ≈ 135,000, with ≈ 240,000 total living in the Capital Region of Reykjavik (population numbers as of 2022).
The Capital Region, also known as Greater Reykjavik, refers to the city of Reykjavik and the 6 municipalities around the capital. Greater Reykjavik has over 60% of Iceland's population, even though it's only just over 1% of its total geographic area.
The Reykjavik Municipal Plan 2010-2030 includes a Sustainable Planning Policy, a plan to maintain Reykjavik as an internationally leading green city, details for the Planning of City Districts, a Neighborhood Plan, and an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Geothermal energy and hydroelectricity already run Reykjavik's economy, however, the Icelandic government states in their Municipal Plan that both energy sources have even more productive capacity to tap into.
Reykjavik's Municipal Plan focuses on:
- further development of sustainable public transit systems
- renewable energy
- energy efficiency
- green building
- district heating
- reducing pollution
- preserving green spaces (around 9 out of 10 residents of Reykjavik already live a five-minute walk away from a public green space)
- densifying Reykjavík’s urban environment
Implementation of a climate action plan to reduce GHGs citywide is also in Reykjavik’s Municipal Plan.
Reykjavik has had a goal since 2016 to be net zero by 2040 (carbon neutral by 2040) and Reykjavik also aims to be completely fossil fuel-free by 2050. The City of Reykjavik is cutting the number of gas stations by 1/2, in an effort to move away from conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and towards electric vehicles (EVs). Due to Reykjavik's use of renewable energy for electricity, this means that EVs in Iceland will be powered by green electricity.
The plan [the Reykjavik City Municipal Plan] includes several measures to achieve the target [carbon neutral by 2040], with promises to mandate the green emphasis in all of the city’s operations. For example, one goal is to ensure all vehicles in the City of Reykjavik are powered by green energy by 2040, including both public and private transportation. [quote from - reuters.com/iceland-capital-carbon/reykjavik-unveils-plan-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2040]
Reykjavik - a Global Leader in Renewable Energy
Reykjavik has become one of the first cities in the world to use renewable energy for nearly all of the city's heating and electricity.
Iceland is home to glaciers, glacial rivers, volcanoes (mostly dormant, and some active), hot springs, geysers, and other subterranean thermal activity. This region of the mid-Atlantic ridge has frequent active seismic activity to this day. This does present Reykjavik with unique opportunities to create renewable energy from the abundant natural geothermal and hydroelectric resources in Iceland.
Iceland was the first country in the world to propose reaching 100% renewable energy, in 1998. Today, Iceland runs on renewable electricity from domestically produced hydropower and geothermal energy, while about 85% of Iceland's total energy use is from domestically produced renewables. Iceland is also the world's largest producer of electricity per capita, and the world's largest clean energy producer per capita.
Reykjavik is a global center for renewable energy research; as universities, governments, as well as private and public companies, all contribute. Government-sponsored programs help fund new renewable energy projects in Reykjavik.
Additionally, private initiatives like The GREEN Program and Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavik University, provide research, development, and education on renewable energy technologies, and sustainable city practices.
Other cities featured in Green City Times that are also trying to reach 100% renewable energy (100RE) include - San Diego, California, Copenhagen, Denmark, Oslo, Norway, Vancouver, Canada, Freiburg, Germany, and Vaxjo, Sweden.
Click & read: Geothermal district heating in Iceland
and Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland