Dozens of US municipalities have picked up gold, silver or bronze awards from SolSmart, a programme which was introduced in 2016 to designate communities that are going solar in a big way and are "open for solar business". The national awards programme, which is funded by the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, in conjunction with the Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), recognizes initiatives aimed at both local residents and businesses. Aside from handing out awards, the programme's wider purpose is to encourage city and county authorities to step up their efforts to promote the development and use of solar-powered electricity. It provides technical assistance free of charge and helps them to reduce the costs and avoid the administrative obstacles standing in the way of making the transition to more sustainable energy systems – inter alia making it easier for them to attract investors and create jobs in this field. In fact over 250,000 people are currently working in the solar industry in theUnited States. SolSmart-designated communities are to be found across 35 US States, with a total population of 59 million. California ranks third on the list, with 17 designated communities, behind Colorado and Illinois. So, what are the chances that the much-needed worldwide energy transition will be driven by local government initiatives of this kind?
By Marie-Eléonore Noiré