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The leading renewable energy capital in the world

Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

Renewable Energy in Reykjavik

Free photos of Blue lagoon
Blue Lagoon, in Grindavík, Reykjanes Peninsula (near the city of Reykjavik)

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 (predominately from geothermal and hydroelectric sources).

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a relatively small city. Roughly 1/3 of the population of Iceland live in Reykjavik municipality itself (population ~344,000 as of 2021), while a bit less than 2/3 of the population of Iceland live in the Greater Capital Region of the country (the 6 municipalities around, and including, Reykjavik).

Iceland is the leading nation worldwide in geothermal energy (when based on per capita capacity). A few large geothermal power plants provide most of the Reykjavik area population's and buildings' heating and hot water needs. For Reykjavik's buildings, roughly 95% of heating is provided by geothermal district heating.

Much of the reason that Iceland leads the world in renewable energy and geothermal 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.

Please also see: Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland

The Reykjavik Municipal Plan 2010-2030

Iceland's renewable energy production has nearly made the country energy independent with respect to heating and electricity generation. Geothermal energy and hydroelectricity already run Reykjavik's economy, but the government states that both energy sources have even more productive capacity to tap into. Reykjavik's Municipal Plan focuses on:

panorama of downtown Reykjavik

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.

Implementation of a climate action plan to reduce GHGs citywide, and strategies for further development of renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, and sustainable public transit, are also in Reykjavik’s Municipal Plan. Reykjavik has had a net zero (carbon neutrality) by 2040 goal since 2016, 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.

The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040 by imposing strict limits on urban sprawl and improving the efficiency of public transport, according to [the Reykjavik City Municipal Plan] unveiled by the city’s mayor.

The plan includes several measures to achieve the target, 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.

The city’s public transport system stands in line for significant restructuring in order to increase the number of people using it to 12 percent from four percent by 2030. - quote from -

Icelandic geyser

Reykjavik as a Global Leader in RE

Iceland is home to glaciers, glacial rivers, volcanoes (mostly dormant, and some active), hot springs, geysers, and underwater volcanoes. 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 on and surrounding Iceland.

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 of renewable energy technologies, and sustainable city practices.

Reykjavik has become one of the first major world cities to use renewable energy for the vast majority of the city's heating and electricity. Other cities (these are featured cities in Green City Times) that are trying to go 100% renewable (100RE) include - San Diego, California, Copenhagen, Denmark, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2025, Oslo, Norway, Vancouver, Canada, Freiburg, Germany, and Vaxjo, Sweden. Additionally, over 100 cities throughout the world are within range of becoming 100RE in the not too distant future. 

Please click & read: Geothermal district heating in Iceland  and   Green City Solutions: Reykjavik, Iceland

Northern Lights in Reykjavik

View of the northern lights above the city center in Reykjavik, Iceland

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  1. Please let us here at Green City Times know what you think in a comment; and we’ll try and answer any questions as well.

    Please also visit our other blog at

    [Dan Braff is the founder of GCT –

    Daniel Braff]

    • Hi
      What would you say are the best projects to implement in order to develop sustainability in terms of carbon and air quality, circular economy and conservation for a big sporting event??

      • This article gives a good summation of exemplary sustainability projects during a big sporting event: Using recycled, reclaimed, and low-carbon building materials is one way. Big sporting events also present the opportunity to expand sustainable transit options, as described in the London Olympics article.

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