Israel had imposed a solar ordinance in 1980 to combat its dependence on oil following the second oil shock. Later European and global cities followed this concept: Barcelona was the first, followed by Madrid, Turin, St-Francisco, Cape Town in South Africa, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Rosario in Argentina and many others. All of these municipalities at some point in time have facilitated the use of solar thermal in their municipal building regulations to varying degrees. The market for Solar Water Heating (SWH) for residential buildings has been greatly developed, but also for larger installations for public buildings, shops and industries. A real change in the world mentality is therefore being conveyed by the municipalities. Moreover, this measure is far from being isolated, as cities and municipalities around the world are organizing to be at the forefront of the fight for climate change.
Barcelona was a pioneer in the municipal field by enforcing a solar ordinance in 1999 to promote solar thermal for new buildings built on its territory. New buildings are required to provide 60% of their domestic hot water with a solar system and 20% to fulfill heat requirements for industrial processes.
The Ordinance was revised in 2006, in particular to include quality and monitoring clauses for solar installations. After 5 years of this new legislation, Barcelona's thermal solar capacity has jumped from 1650 m² to 31,000 m² of installed panels, supplying the equivalent of 45,000 citizens with hot water, and saving the equivalent of nearly 5,000 tons of CO₂ per year.
An Example Taken All Over the World
After the example of Barcelona, the global perception of solar thermal has changed, from a regulation imposed in construction, to a pledge of environmental quality in the municipal building sector. Moreover, it has been realized that the requirement of solar thermal as a construction standard also develops the voluntary market, i.e. projects exceeding the minimum capacity provided by the legislation. Solar thermal is integrated to the construction habits which stimulates a market with large volume, where the economies of scale would allow the solar installations to be more profitable. This allows emerging companies to achieve technological maturity faster.
This Barcelona policy had an influence on other cities in Spain, then on the national legislation. Subsequently, from Turin to St-Francisco, many cities around the world have opted for similar legislation to limit their dependence on fossil fuels and reduce their electricity bills.
The first African city to impose a solar ordinance and the network of solar cities of South America
Cape Town was the first African city to impose a solar ordinance in 2009, and Namibia followed this policy by implementing a national program to promote solar thermal. In 2007, Sao Paulo established a solar ordinanceand then many Brazilian cities created the Brazilian Citades Solares network, which includes more than 26 Brazilian states and a hundred cities. Then comes the tour of Rosario and the red network of Ciudades Solares in Argentina.
Local governments and cities come together to fight climate change
This logic of networking cities is subsequently accentuated at the global level, especially following the various summits on climate. Beyond solar thermal, cities are therefore becoming more active in the fight against climate change and they are regrouping.
The global networks are organized as the C40 Global Climate Network where Barcelona and Sao Paulo are members, as well as the Local Government for Sustainability (ICLEI), which brings together more than 1500 cities and local governments.The decision-making processes therefore change and it can be seen in the case of solar thermal and the environment.