Command & Control Regulation

An effective instrument to achieve the target of 100 per cent renewable energy is to use the municipal legislative power to regulate obligations and prohibitions aimed at energy conservation and renewable energy production.
So-called command and control regulation can be very effective, because, when properly implemented and enforced, it directly changes the behaviour of the addressees. The making of rules is an important role of cities, but it is not always applied with as much focus or conviction as required and indeed possible.

An effective command and control legislation can be achieved in 4 steps:

Local empowerment

As a first step, it is important to determine the areas in which local governments have regulatory power. These areas can vary from country to country. Typically, cities can to issue appropriate building regulations, efficiency standards and mandatory RE provisions for new buildings.

Examples are mandates for solar hot water and solar PV installations, zero-net-energy homes, shading legislation, mandated design review, and scoping of opportunities for renewable energy.

Effective and reasonable obligations

Second, the local regulator must assess which energy efficiency and renewable energy obligations are effective and reasonable in the respective environment. E.g. an obligation to incorporate solar thermal systems in new built homes is a good policy in Spain, but would not be effective in Scandinavia and financially unviable in African countries. Further, the effectiveness does not only relate to cutting CO2 emissions, but also to generating jobs and economic benefits for the local community. With regard to reasonability, it must be ensured that an obligation is necessary and that the same goal cannot be achieved by less intrusive instruments, e.g. (dis)incentives.

Barcelona adopted a Solar Thermal Ordinance first making it compulsory to use solar energy to supply 60% of running hot water in all new buildings, renovated buildings, or buildings changing their use. It applies to both private and public buildings. Today this example is followed by 80 cities in Spain.
Local by-laws have also been developed in many Indian cities to encourage the use of renewable forms of energy in buildings. Cities like Bangalore (IND) have mandated for solar water heating (100 litres per day per ‘unit’ specified) in different types of buildings such as restaurants; lodging accommodation and hospitals. The city has also mandated solar photovoltaics for multi-unit residential buildings for lighting set back areas, driveways, and internal corridors.
An extreme but rather effective example can be found in Rizhao (China): To reduce carbon emissions generated by industry, enterprises with high-energy consumption and heavy pollution were eliminated or shut down, such as small-sized steel works, small power plants, and cement and paper producing factories.
New York authorities have adopted a new statute which requires owners of buildings larger than 50,000 square foot to conduct energy audits once every 10 years and to make environmental improvements to existing installations. City buildings will also perform any building retrofits (capital improvements) that pay for themselves within 7 years.


Third, the local regulator should think of appropriate compensation schemes, if necessary – either for all affected addressees or for financially disadvantaged parts of the population. These could take the form ofgrants or free-loans for mandatory efficiency measures or renewable installations.


Fourth, an effective enforcement mechanism must be established. In general, the application of the law and in securing compliance should be firm, consistent, transparent and proportional. An effective enforcement also benefits from a high popular acceptance of a regulation and the manner of its implementation.

Alternative: Voluntary Action

Although regulatory measures are recommended as being most effective, sometimes voluntary schemes can be as successful. Voluntary action can be encouraged as a first step before introducing regulation. In this case the municipal government could set targets to be reached via voluntary action. If this fails, a regulation could be introduced. 

In the city of Boulder (US), for example, initial phases of implementation focused on providing programs and services to first support voluntary action of the municipality, individuals and business to reduce emissions.
Waitakere (NZ) encourages the use of renewable energy largely through advocacy rather than rules. The bio-energy scheme in the province of Shaanxi (China) was triggered by the action of a group of volunteers, in this case, the Shaanxi Mother’s Environmental Protection Volunteer Association which although was initially founded to replant hillsides due to deforestation and over-ploughing, deteriorating living standards caused by the rise in the cost of food and energy led the group to pursue biogas as a new energy source for villagers.