Green City: Reykjavik, Iceland

The leading renewable energy capital in the world

Reykjavik, Iceland
View of Mount Esja from Reykjavik 

Renewable Energy in Reykjavik


Reykjavik Iceland 1
Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is Iceland's capital and its largest city.

Reykjavik has pioneered the use of geothermal power for citywide district heating.

Reykjavik meets all of its electricity and heating needs from hydroelectric and geothermal sources.

For electricity, Reykjavik sources about 73% from hydroelectricity and about 27% from geothermal. For heating, geothermal energy provides almost all of Reykjavik's needs. A few large geothermal power plants provide most (about 90%) of Icelandic buildings' heating and hot water needs (around 10% of Iceland's buildings use electricity sourced from renewable energy to meet heating demand).

Iceland's renewable energy production has virtually made the country energy-independent.

Green City Reykjavik Iceland
An Icelandic geothermal power plant/ district heating pipe

Iceland is the leading nation worldwide in geothermal energy (when based on per capita capacity).

For Reykjavik's buildings, about 90% 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 the unique topography of the country.

Iceland is home to glaciers, glacial rivers, volcanoes, 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's natural geothermal resources include around 600 hot springs, geysers, and other geothermal hot water sources - generated by geothermal heat from volcanoes and underground magma, steam, and hot water aquifers. Iceland's unique topography includes glacial rivers ideal for power generation with hydroelectric dams.

Also see: Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland

The Reykjavik Municipal Plan 2010-2030


Green City Reykjavik Iceland
The northern lights above Reykjavik

Reykjavik has a relatively small population for a European capital city (Iceland itself has 376,000 people). The city of Reykjavik has a population of 135,000, however, there are 240,000 total living in the entire Capital Region of Reykjavik.

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.

Reykjavik, Iceland

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 the 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 Reykjavik’s urban environment

Panorama of Reykjavik

Additionally, the implementation of a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide is in Reykjavik’s Municipal Plan.

Reykjavik has had a goal since 2016 to be net zero 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 Reykjavik City Municipal Plan] includes several measures to achieve [net zero 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."


Reykjavik - A Global Leader in Renewable Energy           


Icelandic geyser

Iceland was the first country in the world to propose reaching 100% renewable energy, in 1998.

Reykjavik has become one of the first major cities in the world to use renewable energy for all of the city's heating and electricity.

Hallgrímskirkja Church, Reykjavik

Today, Iceland is entirely powered by renewable electricity from domestically produced hydropower and geothermal energy, while about 85% of Iceland's total energy use is from domestically produced renewables (including industry and transportation).

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 the 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 Växjö, Sweden

Click & read: Geothermal District Heating in Iceland 

and   Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland

Green City Reykjavik Iceland
Blue Lagoon, in Grindavík, Reykjanes Peninsula (about 40 km from Greater Reykjavik)

The northern lights above Reykjavik