U.S. so far refuses to ratify, calls for
reduction of CO2 levels to 7 percent
below 1990 levels by 2012. Some climate-change experts project that we will need
to reduce CO2 emissions in the U.S. by 80
percent in the next 35-40 years in order
to prevent the worst effects of global climate change.
Even this general an overview illustrates the magnitude of the problem.
Sustainability in the future depends on a
dramatic change in our energy use, and it
goes beyond public transportation and
miles per gallon. Let’s consider the largest
non-transportation source of greenhouse
gasses: the generation of electricity.
What About Electricity?
The development of electricity has
had a profound influence on the development of human society. Electricity is now
considered to be essential for maintaining
a reasonable quality of life, from computer
and technology-driven industries supporting thousands of employees to the isolated,
Third World medical clinic keeping its
vaccines cool in a solar-powered refrigerator. The two major advantages of electricity
are that it can be generated in a variety of
ways, and at point of use it is a clean and
predictable source of power.
However, electricity is not itself an
energy resource. It must be generated
from fossil, nuclear or renewable sources.
Because no generation method is totally
efficient, significant losses occur at the
generator and along transmission and
distribution lines on its way to be used.
The thermal and mechanical efficiency of
an average coal plant is about 35 percent,
which means that only 35 percent of the
coal’s energy emerges as electricity.
Another 10 percent is lost in delivery
through transmission and distribution
lines. This means that for every kilowatt-hour’s worth of coal energy in the ground,
only one hour is delivered. Three kilowatt-hour’s worth of coal energy was lost along
What About Renewable
Renewable energy is held out as the
primary hope for a sustainable future. It
may be surprising to know which renewable sources are currently used most.
Renewable energy is currently the
most dynamic energy development market
in the world. Germany and Spain are international leaders in renewable electric
power, as is Japan, where residential
solar PV is already economically competitive. The growth of wind power development internationally over the last five years
has been tremendous. Methane recovery
from anaerobic digesters for agricultural
waste, municipal sewage treatment and
landfills provides another growing source
of fuel for electrical generation.
What About Energy
Conservation and Efficiency?
Energy conservation and efficiency can
help reduce the CO2 emissions from the
electric power sector. There are many
efforts currently dedicated to helping
residential, commercial, industrial and
agricultural sectors reduce their energy
use. Progress is indeed being made at the
individual project level, but significant
opportunities for improvement exist within
sustainability or smart growth planning at
a broader level.
How Can Planners Help?
Planners are in a unique position to
introduce energy issues into community-based planning. This may sound like a
daunting idea, but there are many resources
available. In the spring of 2004, the Amer-
Planners are in a unique position to
introduce energy issues into community-based planning. Environment,
Natural Resources and Energy
Division of the American Planning
Association issued its first Energy
Policy Guide in 2004. You may obtain
a copy of the guide at www.plan
ican Planning Association adopted its first
Energy Policy Guide for planners, which
outlines four primary policy positions: (a)
increasing energy efficiency; (b) reducing
fossil fuel use and increasing renewable
energy use; (c) mitigating adverse energy
impacts; and (d) promoting equity and
justice through community involvement in
energy issues. Twenty-one policy initiatives
outline specific areas of action. Referenced
as well in [that] document are related APA
Ingrid Kelley is a project manager at the
Energy Center of Wisconsin and holds a master’s
degree in Community and Regional Planning
from the University of New Mexico. She is a
member of ENRE and was one of the authors of
the 2004 APA Energy Policy Guide. She may be
reached at IKelley@ecw.org.
Energy and Sustainability
The following Web sites provide further background information about energy
sources, uses, technologies and impacts:
www.energystar.gov – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
www.usgbc.org/leed/leed_main.asp – Leadership in Energy & Environmental
www.darksky.org – International Dark-Sky Association
www.sustainable.doe.gov – U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Smart
www.eere.energy.gov – U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE)
www.nrel.gov – the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory
www.awea.org – the American Wind Energy Association
www.ases.org – American Solar Energy Society
Sustainable Building/Green Energy
www.cmpbs.org – Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems
www.dcat.net – Development Center for Appropriate Technology