Mastering ‘Solar City’
Coimbatore, national winner of WWF’s city challenge in 2014, is one of 36 cities in India that has finalized its solar city masterplan as part of its participation in India’s National Solar Cities Programme. The plan includes the goal to reduce conventional energy consumption by 10% within five years, through investment in renewables and energy efficiency measures. As a first step, the city started to install solar photovoltaic panels (PVs) on all municipal buildings, and is completing its energy-saving project for street lights by using timers, dimmers, electronic meters, and LEDs.



City Challenge Winner 2014

Coimbatore, also known as Kovai, is the second largest city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, with a population of more than 2 million in the greater metropolitan area. It is one of the fastest growing cities in India and is a manufacturing hub, often referred to as the Manchester of India, with a highly developed industrial sector in addition to the traditional textile factories.

Solar city master plan

The solar city master plan includes comprehensive investments in an array of renewables and energy efficiency measures both in municipal operations and in the wider community. The city commits to: setting up a "Solar City Cell" – an administrative body for planning and implementation; constituting a “Solar City Stakeholders Committee”; promoting the national rating system for construction of energy efficient green buildings; and speeding up installations of solar water heaters with regulations and tax rebates.

Coimbatore plans to provide grid incentives for solar power plants and install solar PVs and solar water heaters on all hospitals. In the wider community, the city has extensive plans for promoting renewables, including: replacement of kerosene lamps with solar lanterns for traders in the market; replacement of inverters and generators to solar PV systems in homes; installations of solar water heaters and solar PVs in residential complexes; investments in solar cookers and solar panels for schools and universities, and biogas systems for restaurants; and promoting solar water heaters and solar steam generators for industries.

International cooperation

Coimbatore has a long history of working together with ICLEI and other international organizations in projects on sustainable development. It is part of a network of Indian model communities in ICLEI’s Local Renewables Initiative, and is one of two pilot cities committed to investing 200 million dollars in green infrastructure in ICLEI’s Urban Climate Project. It is also one of eight Indian cities in ICLEI’s Urban LEDS program to develop low-emission development strategies, and one of seven Indian cities in to have started a path towards a zero-waste future. Through these projects, Coimbatore has developed an energy consumption profile, a GHG emissions inventory and low carbon action plans, and has several ongoing sustainability projects.

The city is implementing a largescale energy-saving project for the city’s street lighting system. Automatic timers, dimmers, and electronic meters have been installed to save energy during off-peak hours, and the city is now replacing conventional bulbs with LEDs.


Bus rapid transit plans

In cooperation with the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), Coimbatore has developed a transport policy that includes developing a high quality bus rapid transit (BRT) network in addition to the city bus system, implementing a bicycle sharing system, improving non-motorized transport infrastructure, and improving parking management.

The city has completed the installation of an innovative wind-solar hybrid renewable energy system at its new Mettupalayam road bus terminal. This system will act as the primary back-up for the bus terminal during times of power shortage, and is a pilot project that could reap greater sustainability benefits elsewhere in the city.

Coimbatore has significantly improved its waste management system in cooperation with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Garbage collection increased from 44% to 90%, waste segregation reached 80%, and waste into landfills has been reduced by 25%.

Renewables in India

The National Solar Cities Programme assists Indian cities with funding of 50% of the costs for preparing a master plan, and provides a smaller grant to support the rest of a city´s program. The programme is part of a greater push for renewables in India, focusing on solar power. The country depends on coal for more than half of its electricity production and has suffered several blackouts from its unreliable power grid. India is one of the world’s leading countries for renewables in absolute numbers and has several supportive policies, but counted per capita or towards power needs, the share of renewables is still very small.

India has announced plans to more than double its renewable capacity for electricity production, from 25 GW in 2012 to 55 GW by 2017, out of which 10 GW is planned to come from solar PVs. To 2022, the goal is to reach 20 GW of solar energy feeding into the grid, and apart from the Solar Cities Programme, and other measures to support solar PVs, the national government is also commissioning construction of solar plants.

Within India, Coimbatore is well-placed to fulfill its goal of becoming a “Solar City” with the results already visible in the form of solar PV installations on its hospitals and schools, on private homes and on government buildings, and on industrial plants – for example, in August 2014 a two megawatt (2 MW) system was installed on Coimbatore’s Murugan textile factory at Palladam.

Want to know more about Urban solutions?

Contact Barbara Evaeus
Global Communications Manager,
WWF One Planet City Challenge
+46 70 393 9030





REN21 Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, 2014, Renewables 2014 Global Status Report, http://www.ren21.net/Portals/0/documents/Resources/GSR/2014/GSR2014_full%20report_low%20res.pdf

Government of India, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Solar/Green Cities, http://mnre.gov.in/schemes/decentralized-systems/solar-cities/

Coimbatore Municipal Corporation, “Development of Coimbatore Solar City: Final Master Plan, August 2012”, http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/UserFiles/Coimbatore_solar_city_master_plan.pdf

Coimbatore Municipal Corporation, www.ccmc.gov.in/ccmc/

The Hindu, “Coimbatore to go all out to tap solar energy”, March 5, 2013, www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/coimbatore-to-go-all-out-to-tap-solar-energy/article4476024.ece

The Hindu, “Coimbatore Corpn. to replace conventional bulbs with LED ones”, December 12, 2012, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/coimbatore-corpn-to-replace-conventional-bulbs-with-led-ones/article4190404.ece

Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), Coimbatore, https://go.itdp.org/display/live/Coimbatore

ICLEI, “ICLEI South Asia Annual Report 2012-2013”, 

Government of India, Ministry of Urban Development, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, “Coimbatore Solid WasteManagement Project under JnNURM”, http://jnnurm.nic.in/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/City-Report-on-Coimbatore-SWM-Project-under-JNNURM_Final.pdf

carbonn Climate Registry, City Climate Report: Coimbatore, http://citiesclimateregistry.org/index.php?id=312&tx_datareport_pi1%5Buid%5D=100

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Text by: Martin Jacobson
Last edited: 2017-03-15