Every community can
move toward supplying its energy in ways that are clean, secure,
affordable, and that meet citizens’ needs abundantly. This is called a
sustainable energy system. Achieving it will mean increasing the supply
of energy that comes from locally based, renewable sources. It will
also mean using sources of energy more efficiently. Many communities
are already moving in this direction. You can, too.
A good first step in
developing a plan to meet a community’s energy needs now and into the
future is to understand how the community currently gets its energy. Most
citizens in a community have no idea where their energy comes from.
Many have no idea that a typical community now spends as much as 20% of
its gross income buying energy. Because most of this energy comes from
outside the community, 80% of those dollars immediately leave the local
economy. This means that most towns are slowly bleeding to death
sustainable energy future will require putting in place a very different
energy supply system than most cities have now. On average for the U.S.
communities use very little renewable energy. The Department of Energy
(DOE) estimates that the U.S. in 2004 got only 5.7% of its energy from
renewable sources. Business as usual projections forecast that the U.S.
would get only 1% more renewable energy by 2030.
Primary Energy Sources
Business as Usual Energy Projections
The projection from
the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for 2030 could also be
called the “do-nothing” option. It illustrates that little progress
towards using renewable energy can be expected without deliberate action
on the part of cities, regions, states and the federal government. But
as described throughout this manual, change is coming. The way we
currently meet our energy needs will not continue.
Nearly 40% of
primary energy used in the U.S. now goes to producing electricity. Most
of this is coal that is burned in central station power plants,
contributing to global warming and producing enormous quantities of
waste heat and pollution. The resulting electricity is then shipped
through massive power lines to the final customers. In the whole
process, well over two thirds of the original energy is lost. These
huge inefficiencies in electrical generation and
distribution systems mean that electricity supplies only 16% of the
energy that is delivered to customers.
The remaining 60% of
primary energy is used directly in buildings, industrial processes and
transportation. There are large inefficiencies in these uses as well.
For instance, an automobile is approximately 1% efficient at converting
the energy stored in fuel into actually moving the driver. All of the
remaining energy produces heat and pollution.
Following the 1979 oil price increase, tougher vehicle efficiency
standards reduced U.S. use of oil 15% over the five years at the same
time that the economy grew by 16%. Given that there are cars now on the
road getting over 60 miles per gallon, and the vehicle fleet average is
21 MPH, there obviously remains a
large scope for increased efficiency.
existing energy systems are vulnerable.
Recent estimates of the economic costs of ordinary power outages and
power fluctuations in the U.S. put the cost of such disruptions as high
as $188 billion annually.
This number would obviously be dwarfed by significant natural or
In part because of
this, many industries have moved to supply part or all of their own
energy. By 2001, “non-utility” providers (an owner of electric
generating capacity that is not an electric utility) were providing
one-sixth of the nation’s electricity. There is a rapidly expanding
marketplace for distributed energy.
and energy security benefits can be obtained through greater use of
“distributed” energy sources, meaning energy sources physically close
to, and matched in scale with
Most of current “distributed generation” is not renewable. Much of it
is gas-fired cogeneration, but increasingly new additions of distributed
generation feature solar or wind power.
U.S. Department of
Energy Assistant Secretary David Garman notes:
Aside from its obvious environmental
benefits, solar and other distributed energy resources can enhance our
energy security. Distributed generation at many locations around the
grid increases power reliability and quality while reducing the strain
on the electricity transmission system.
Before a town can
decide what energy future it wishes to develop, its citizens need to be
educated about the technologies that are available and in use in other
communities. The community should also understand the costs associated
with doing things in a different way and as well as the costs that
inaction would impose. For all of the reasons outlined in this manual,
continuing to meet our energy needs as we have in the past may not be an
option. Failure to undertake an aggressive
transition to the best technologies now available will actually penalize
a town. For instance, an examination of one utility’s reluctance to buy
wind electricity instead of natural gas plants showed that the decision
forced consumers to pay nearly $200 million in unnecessary electricity
bills over the past five years. If the utility had purchased wind, the
bills would have been lower, and the community would have been on its
way to a carbon neutral future.
A community that
wishes to meet the energy needs of its citizens without emitting GHGs
must lay out a strategy for transitioning its energy supply from fossil
fuels to renewable energy.
Such a plan sets
A vision of a
sustainable energy system that will meet the community’s greenhouse gas
(GHG) goals/limits and renewable energy goals;
A plan to meet
the needs for vehicle fuels, electricity, and facility energy needs and
government’s intent to take short- and long-term renewable energy
actions on a local and regional scale;
key stakeholders: utilities, vehicle fuel providers, other levels of
government, and major employers or energy users.
A sustainable energy
plan will be founded on the efficient use of energy. The actions
presented in this manual to reduce emissions of GHGs are an excellent
starting point. When undertaking an analysis of the opportunities to
save energy it is wise to disaggregate energy use so that it is clear
what kinds of energy different end-uses require. Studies that aggregate
information into sectors such as residential or commercial make it hard
to understand what programs will work best, and then what supply
measures will enable users to run vehicles, or deliver power to
computers most effectively.
Based on the actual
needs of a community, a plan will describe where to get additional
energy supplies once all the cost effective energy savings measures have
been implemented. Fortunately, many studies have shown that it is
possible to meet all of the energy needs of a dynamic growing industrial
society using energy efficiently and deriving it from the various
renewable forms of energy.
In most cases, new
sources of energy are more expensive than older ones. A good strategy
both for protecting the climate and for keeping your local energy bill
lower is to buy enough energy efficiency to avoid the need to bring on
new sources of power—for example, in the case of electricity, achieving
“no load growth.” This is a relatively simple equation to manage:
ensure that what the community invests in energy efficiency each year is
sufficient to offset any population growth, economic growth and
energy-use growth unrelated to the first two. So long as energy
end-uses remain unregulated and/or customers do not see effective
efficiency incentives, it can be expected that consumers will add
devices such as plasma televisions (which use five times the energy of a
regular television) and other energy-inefficient appliances that in the
aggregate are costly to the community’s residents and businesses.
Proven examples of
energy savings opportunities
office equipment and commercial and household appliances has saved over
two-thirds of their energy use with the same or better service and
comparable or lower cost.
have saved 70–90% of office and
retail lighting energy, yet the light quality is more attractive and the
occupants can see better. In most cases, the better lighting equipment
lasts far longer and so more than pays for itself by costing less to
three-fourths of industrial electricity, three-fifths of all
electricity, and more primary energy than highway vehicles. This use is
highly concentrated: about half of all motor electricity is used in the
million largest motors, three-fourths in the three million largest.
Since big motors use their own capital cost’s worth of electricity every
few weeks, switching to more efficient motors can pay back quickly.
This plus retrofitting the rest of the motor system saves about half its
energy and pays back in around 16 months.
industry saved half its energy per unit of product during 1973–90 by
plugging steam leaks, installing insulation, and recovering lost heat.
Now it’s discovered that better catalysts and matching heat to the
required temperature can often save 70% or so of what’s left, yet pay
back within two years. Next-generation industrial plant design, now
moving from the chemical industry into semiconductors, is uncovering
50–75% savings with lower capital cost,
faster construction, and better performance. Early adopters will
Many of these
examples illustrate a new design concept: that whole-system engineering
can often make it cheaper to save a larger than a smaller fraction of
energy use. This typically comes from integrating the design of an
entire package of measures so they do multiple duty (such as better
design saving on both energy and equipment costs), or piggyback on
renovations being done anyway for other reasons, or both. Good
engineers think this is fun. Most economic theorists assume it is
opportunities expand far into the future:
“waste” heat to other users could cost-effectively save up to about 30%
of U.S. and 45% of Japanese industrial energy. (America’s power stations
waste more heat than Japan’s total energy use.)
unexploited are new kinds of heat exchangers and motors, membrane
separators and smart materials, sensors and controls, rapid prototyping
and ultraprecision fabrication, and radically more frugal processes
using enzymes, bacteria, and
biological design principles.
also saves the energy needed to produce, process, transport, and dispose
of them. Product longevity, minimum-materials design and manufacturing,
recovery of any scrap not designed out, repair, reuse, remanufacturing
and recycling together present a formidable menu of business
opportunities that also save energy, pollution, mining, and
landfilling. Japan cut its materials intensity by 40% just during
1973–84; but far more is yet to come. Americans throw away enough
aluminum to rebuild the country’s commercial aircraft fleet every three
months, even though recycling aluminum takes 95% less energy than making
it from scratch. Smart manufacturers now take their products back for
profitable remanufacturing, as IBM did with computers in Japan and Xerox
does with photocopiers worldwide.
savings reduce climatic threats from more gases than just CO2.
Advanced refrigerators, using vacuum insulation and helium-engine
coolers, can save over 90% of the energy of a standard refrigerator,
thus avoid burning enough coal to fill the refrigerator every year.
They also eliminate climate and
ozone-disrupting cfcs from insulation and refrigerant. Landfill and
coal-mine gas recovery turns heat-trapping and hazardous methane
emissions into a valuable fuel while making electricity that displaces
coal-burning (see the chapter on waste management). Recycling paper
(the average person in a rich country uses as much wood for paper,
mostly wasted, as the average person in a poor country uses for fuel)
saves it from turning into landfill methane, and also saves the
fossil-fueled used in manufacturing and transportation. These and
scores more examples represent business opportunities with multiple
Examples of Community End-Use Strategies:
The U.S. Federal
Government conducts extensive programs to reduce energy end-use at
facilities, with an overall goal of 2% annual reduction in each
facility. This is achieved through systematic audits through operations
such as the Federal Energy Management Program of the National Renewable
Energy Lab and Oak Ridge National Lab.
The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Energy Policy includes a goal of
conducting energy savings with less than a ten years payback.
The DoD’s Energy Conservation Investment Program saves $3-4 for every $1
invested over the investment lifecycle.
pursuing best practices regarding end-use energy management include
multi-national firms Interface Inc., DuPont Corp., STMicroelectronics,
ALCOA, ALCAN, Wal-Mart, Honda and SC Johnson. Mid-size or small
businesses include Hot Lips Pizza of Portland, OR; New Belgium Brewing
of Ft. Collins, CO; the IGA Market in Sacramento, CA.
Clean Air Cool
Planet is a small, compelling organization dedicated to finding and
promoting solutions to global warming. They’re a great example of a
small non-profit that is making impressive changes in the carbon
emissions of all sorts of industries. They partner with companies
(Timberland, Verizon, Harbec Plastics), campuses (Harvard, MIT, Yale)
and communities in the Northeast to help them reduce their carbon
emissions in ways that make financial sense.
institutions pursuing best practices include the University of Calgary,
Canada; Tufts of Boston, MA.
have programs similar to Nevada Power, which provides cash rebates for energy efficient appliances and
air conditioners, and installs devices that reduce air conditioning
electrical demand during summer peaks.
consumer-owned electric utility serving Gainesville, Florida
decoupled profits from energy sales to help promote efficiency.
an energy building code in 2004 stronger than the International Energy
Conservation Code standards.
energy saving retrofits when homes are sold or significantly upgraded.
including Ashland, Oregon provide extensive assistance to homeowners for energy audits and
can be implemented very rapidly, by either or both of two quite
In the 1970s and ’80s, as now, there were high or rising energy prices
and a sense of urgency: During roughly 1975–85, most new U.S.
buildings, refrigerators, lighting systems, etc.—doubled their
efficiency, improving at an annual rate averaging around 7%.
If all Americans
saved electricity as quickly and cheaply as ten million people served by
Southern California Edison Company did during 1983–85, then each year
they’d decrease the forecast need for power supplies a decade hence by
about 7%, at a cost to the utility around one-tenth that of today’s
cheapest new power stations.
In the 1980s,
skillful utilities captured ~70–90+% of particular efficiency markets,
mainly difficult ones like retrofitting house shells, in just one or two
utility facilitation enabled electric customers in Seattle—with the
cheapest electricity of any major U.S. city—to save electric load nearly
12 times as fast as those in Chicago, and electric energy more than
3,600 times as fast, even though Seattle electricity prices are about
half of Chicago’s. This conclusively shows that making an informed,
effective, and efficient market in energy-saving devices and
practices—as Seattle Light’s efforts helped to do—can fully substitute for a bare price signal, and
indeed can influence energy-saving choices even more than can price
alone. That is, people can save energy faster if they have extensive
ability to respond to a weak price signal than if they have little
ability to respond to a strong one.
utilities, when rewarded for cutting bills, sold efficiency ever faster
and more skillfully despite falling electricity prices. In 1990, New
England Electric System captured 90% of a small-commercial pilot
retrofit market in two months. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
captured 25% of its entire new-commercial-construction market—150% of
the year’s target—in three months, so it raised its 1991 target…and
captured all of it in the first nine days of January.
generally means power that comes from natural processes such as
sunlight, wind, water flows, or earth’s natural heat sources
(geothermal) and that are inexhaustible. These are also called clean
energy sources. Whether these sources are truly sustainable
depends on whether they take no more from the earth than can truly be
renewed, whether they are produced in ways that do not pollute and
whether they are deployed in ways that respect people and nature. There
are many ways to supply energy, but some, like nuclear power, are
neither clean, safe nor cost-effective. Others like hydrogen are still
experimental. Others like solar space satellites have unfortunate
military applications, and are extremely costly. None of these are
considered “clean technologies,” even though they may be argued to be
renewable or non-carbon.
planning does not necessarily mean that the municipal government must go
into the energy business using municipal enterprises. This may be a
good idea, and many cities are considering “municipalizing” their energy
suppliers, but a city can equally well work with existing utilities to
ensure that energy efficiency and renewable energy are made available
for its citizens and to future generations.
Some cities find
that it is useful to work with their citizens to develop a long-term
vision of what sustainability can mean for their community. Such a
vision can motivate people and guide community investment. Without a
vision, investments for incremental improvements may not achieve the
economic and social advantages of a strategic plan to meet the
community’s needs sustainably.
What is a realistic
but aggressive vision for maximizing renewable energy for your community
by, say, 2025? How much change can actually be achieved in the next 20
years? A dramatically different future from the one foreseen by the
U.S. Department of Energy, is both desirable and doable. Several
organizations have offered maps for increasing sustainable energy use:
The Union of
Concerned Scientists offers a Clean Energy Blueprint that would achieve
meeting 20% of U.S. electricity needs;
of $105 billion per year;
Avoidance of 975
new power plants and billions of energy infrastructure costs (such as
pipelines, etc.) and retirement of 180 old coal plants and nine
major nuclear plants; and
natural gas consumption by 18%, coal consumption by 60%, carbon dioxide
emissions by 67%, sulfur dioxide emissions by 55%, and nitrogen oxide
emissions by 55% from “business as usual” projections.
The Apollo Alliance
plan for clean energy cities in the U.S. includes the following goals:
Generate 25% of
electricity from renewable sources;
consumption by 25% by 2025; and
transportation systems and high-performance (green) buildings.
The Rocky Mountain
Institute’s “Oil End-Game”
plan proposes that the U.S. could eliminate its petroleum products
dependence for energy through:
buildings and vehicles that double fuel efficiency (52% savings);
production (25%); and
natural gas for the remaining petroleum (25%).
developed both abroad and domestically illustrate proactive means of
creating more sustainable energy policy. For example, the EU has
adopted the Energy Intelligent Europe Initiative, tying European
competitiveness and quality of life to a transition away from fossil
fuels to energy efficiency and renewables.
The German Renewable
Energy Act (2001) outlined a renewable energy strategy for that
country. The German approach included the “eco-tax” (Ökosteuer)
that raised gasoline costs by $.18/gallon by 2004.
The German Renewable Energy Act calls for reaching 20% of electricity
and 10% of primary energy from renewable sources by 2020; and 50% of
primary energy from renewable sources by 2050, through the following
remuneration that gives incentives for renewable energy sources (ranging
from $.055/kwhr for wind to $.574 for solar
photovoltaic) that is reevaluated every two years
continuous renewable energy cost reduction
High security for
No dependence on
towards internalizing external costs
City and state
governments in the U.S. are also adopting innovative strategies to
promote renewable energy.
As of Spring 2006,
20 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted programs that
mandate getting a certain percentage of electricity production from
These “renewable portfolio” programs encourage utilities and citizens to
use more renewable energy. California and New Jersey have adopted
particularly ambitious goals. Examples of U.S. renewable energy
CASE STUDY: State of California
Solar Initiative (2005) aims to increase the amount of installed
solar capacity on rooftops by 3,000 MW by 2017 with
investor-owned utilities through:
for photovoltaic and concentrated solar rebates;
low-income households from any rate increases associated with
the program and using 10% of the funds for projects for
Go Solar California
CASE STUDY: State of New Jersey
Clean Energy Program calls for 1,500 MW of solar electricity
installations in the state by 2020 through:
A Renewable Portfolio Standard of 6.5% by 2008 with a
target of 20% by 2020.
The Clean Power Choice program that offers consumers the
option to purchase renewable electricity;
Financial incentives for high-performance green buildings
Creation and trading of “Solar Renewable Energy
Certificates” which financially reward distributed energy
producers who help utilities meet renewable portfolio
renewable energy goals adopted by U.S. cities include:
CASE STUDY: Santa Monica, CA
The city of Santa Monica,
California set goals and programs include:
100% renewable energy purchases by city operations
25% of community electricity from renewable energy sources
by 2010, including 1% from distributed sources
Maximizing non-petroleum fuel use in city fleet vehicles
(80% already achieved)
City Progress Reports” on the internet that include pages on GHG
emissions, energy use, renewable energy, and transportation
The 2006 “Community Energy Independence
Initiative,” which will demonstrate how “energy efficiency,
solar energy and distributed generation can work together
effectively and how greater energy independence provides
economic benefit to the community” through 50 pilot projects on
buildings. These projects will lead to a city-wide effort.
CASE STUDY: San Diego, CA
In 2003, the San Diego,
California region adopted the “Regional Energy Strategy 2030.”
This program articulates nine goals to “achieve an integrated
approach to meeting the energy needs and supporting the
prosperity” of the region. The goals address energy security,
efficiency and sources, including:
In-county capacity to generate 75% of summer electrical
demand peaks (to be achieved by 2020);
Supplying 40% of electricity from renewable sources of
which 50% are in-county;
Supplying 30% of peak electrical demand from “clean
Reducing per capita electricity peak demand and total
consumption to 1980 levels; and
Reducing natural gas per capita consumption by 15%.
CASE STUDY: Chicago, IL
Illinois programs include:
The Chicago Solar Partnership, begun in 2000, which
combines solar energy unit production in the city with city
purchases of solar power and various financial incentives for
business and residents to install solar panels;
The Bike 2015 plan which encourages Chicagoans to make at
least 5% of all trips less than five miles via bicycle, and also
aims to reduce bicycle accidents;
A goal to generate 20% of electricity for city facilities
from renewable sources by 2010;
Home weatherization for low-income families; and
City support of Spire Solar Company so that jobs from solar
manufacturing will be retained in Chicago, and
the city will have access to solar cells.
At present, most
energy planning is done in a disintegrated fashion. Little connection
(i.e., whole-system thinking) is drawn between the planning that is done
to supply vehicle fuels and planning that ensures supply to residential
and commercial facilities (electricity and direct consumption). Vehicle
fuel is delivered by the private sector, partially in response to state
and federal government taxes/incentives and regulations.
For example, vehicle
fuel planning typically takes three forms:
and distribution planning by private energy providers (e.g., petroleum
companies and, increasingly, bio-fuel companies);
planning by local air quality boards or districts;
plans created by state or local governments.
Communities can intervene in these
systems to ensure that energy is supplied in ways that are
cost-effective and secure.
As of summer 2006, 65
privately owned biodiesel manufacturing plants had opened in the U.S.
with 49 more under construction.
In 2005, BP launched
its “low-carbon energy” business, an $8 billion investment over ten
years to provide cleaner power sources.
Through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Plan, BP, which
produces 5,000 tons of hydrogen daily, collaborated with Ford Motor Co.
and DaimlerChrysler in 2004 to build hydrogen fleet fueling stations in
California, Florida and Michigan.
The company expects to complete engineering studies in 2006 of a
hydrogen power plant in Carson, CA, using petroleum coke as a fuel. The
carbon emissions from converting natural gas to
hydrogen (4 million tons per year) are planned to be sequestered
Air quality planning:
The South Coast Air Quality
Management District serving the Los Angeles metro area has an extensive
Clean Fuels program that co-funds dozens of demonstration projects
government’s climate change plan includes programs of the air quality
division designed to reduce GHGs and improve efficient use of vehicle
fuels, including the “Scrap-it Program” that rewards demolition of
older, highly polluting vehicles in exchange for rebates on cleaner
vehicles and a goal for attaining 30% green vehicles in the government’s
fleet by 2008. The program also publishes tests of hybrid performance.
Alternative fuel plans
Plug-in hybrid vehicles may
be available in the U.S. market by 2008. These vehicles represent an
opportunity for vehicle fueling to help (if such vehicles are recharged
during off-peak electrical production hours) or hinder community energy
security (if charging boosts existing peak demands). Both the State of
California and the city of Austin, Texas have programs underway to
encourage the use of plug-in hybrids.
Hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid
vehicles represent an opportunity for distributed power generation. The
vehicles are small electric powerplants on wheels that could generate
power for a facility or the electrical grid while parked, if a
connection were supplied that delivered hydrogen, and delivered the
resulting electricity to the larger electric grid.
The “Hydrogen Highway
Network Action Plan” project of the California Air Resources Board
(2004) aims “to support and catalyze a rapid transition to a clean,
hydrogen transportation economy” specifically co-funding for three
hydrogen fueling stations and the state lease of hydrogen-fueled
commercial facility energy planning differs by states. Sometimes it is
highly regulated by agencies (e.g. public utility commissions or the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). In other locales it is a
function of the private sector’s handling of fuels.
facility energy end-use planning typically involves education and/or
incentives that affect choices by end-users. Programs to encourage
customers to use energy wisely this are described in this Manual’s
Chapter 5, Residential Section.
programs electric utilities are vulnerable to major system problems when
the utility’s projection (guess) of total potential electrical demand
falls short of actual demand. This happened to Los Angeles Water and
Power in the summer of 2006 when it underestimated electrical demand
during a summer heat wave by 500 MW and blackouts resulted.
Had LA’s energy planning enabled customers to live in buildings that
kept inhabitants comfortable without air conditioning, this problem
would not have arisen, everyone’s bills would have been lower and far
less carbon would have been emitted. Programs to
integrate the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy can deliver
significant value to a community.
Municipal Utility District. In 1989, Sacramento, California shut down
its 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant. Rather than invest in any
conventional centralized fossil fuel plant, the local utility met its
citizens’ needs by investing in energy efficiency and such renewable
supply technologies as wind, solar, biofuels and distributed
technologies like co-generation, fuel cells, etc. In 2000, an
econometric study showed that the program has increased the regional
economic health by over $180 million, compared to just running the
existing nuclear plant. The utility was able to hold rates level for a
decade, retaining 2,000 jobs in factories that would have been lost
under the 80% increase in rates that just operating the power plant
would have caused. The program generated 880 new jobs, and enabled the
utility to pay off all of its debt.
Mountain Post in Colorado has set forth a plan to meet 100% of its
energy needs with renewable energy by 2027.
cost-effective sustainable energy involves two essential tasks:
Moving the existing energy marketplace away from the
business-as-usual scenario by reducing various market failures
Progressing on an investment path towards a sustainable energy
In undertaking these
tasks, it is good to solicit input from such community partners as
utilities, vehicle fuel providers, other levels of government, and major
employers or energy users.
economists have long noted a fundamental flaw in market prices: Most
prices fall short of capturing the full costs of producing the product
or service being offered.
Costs such as the
impact of releasing carbon into the atmosphere, the cost of
vulnerabilities of central electricity generation, and the various
subsidies that the Federal government gives to make historic forms of
energy like coal or oil look cheaper, are called “externalities.”
These impacts are massive, but are not reflected in the market prices of
energy. One study estimated the externalities of coal-fired electricity
to be approximately four times the market price—meaning that in a
truthful marketplace, coal-fired electricity would be closer to
$0.21/kwhr instead of the present $.04-$.06 cents. For nuclear power,
externalities are estimated at nine cents per kilowatt hour—nearly
double the market cost of running existing plants.
According to the
U.S. Department of Energy, coal-fired electricity externalities include
acid rain, urban ozone and global climate change.
Other externalities include mercury pollution, radioactivity, pollution
from mining, milling, transport and waste disposal, externalities from
the use of water, and habitat losses or other ecosystem damage incurred
during the coal lifecycle. In the past four decades, governments have
slightly reduced price externalities by implementing regulations to
protect the environment and reduce damage to human health. Even so, the
majority of externalities listed above remain unresolved.
A case can be made
that another externality of non-renewable resources is the
denial of that resource to future generations. Interface Inc. CEO Ray
Anderson, one of many business leaders dismayed by the consequences of
externalities, notes that externalities mean that the market alone
cannot provide sufficient constraints on corporations’ tendency to cause
harm. A true market, he argues, would force companies to include
externalities in the price of their offerings.
In contrast, solar
electricity is estimated to have externality costs of one cent per
kilowatt hour, in addition to its current estimated costs of 15 to 20
cents. Wind energy is presently cost competitive with coal and nuclear,
with similarly few externalities.
To achieve a more
balanced marketplace, communities can:
Use regulations and/or taxes/fees to increase the price of
non-renewable energy and provide incentives to providers of clean energy
sources of all kinds (e.g., to make solar energy panels with fewer toxic
Use regulations and financial mechanisms to Reduce the effective
costs of renewable and in distributed energy
Increase the incentives for
energy utilities and community citizens/organizations to invest in
energy efficiency and renewable energy
leading-edge actions taken by local governments include:
Light, the city of Seattle’s public utility, has committed to be
carbon-neutral. This utility is reducing its carbon footprint through
use of renewable energy sources and purchasing carbon credits to achieve
carbon neutrality. The scheme effectively prices its energy as if it
had few externalities.
Seattle City Light achieved zero net greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 and 2006.
Falls, Minnesota, offers low interest
loans and incentives to customers who install ground-source heat pumps—a
less electricity intensive system for heating and cooling buildings.
California, rents solar hot
water systems to citizens and businesses.
offers 0-2% loans to homeowners to install solar hot water systems.
utility in Bowling Green, Ohio, led a
collaborative effort among ten municipal utilities to finance a
Iowa, changed zoning ordinances to allow appropriately sized wind turbines
to be installed in residential zones.
The city of Chicago and 47 other local government agencies formed the Local Government
Power Alliance. Through it, they
negotiated lower-cost electrical service that includes higher levels of
Alliance, “New Energy for Cities—Energy Saving and Job Creation Policies
for Local Government.”
International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy home page.
Renewable Energy Laboratory’s home page.
Energy is almost
entirely produced and consumed by what accountants call “capital”
goods—long-term investments in such energy producing devices as power
plants, wind turbines, solar cells and the infrastructure like power
lines to support them.
Energy is usually consumed by other capital goods—the heating, cooling,
and lighting systems in buildings, transit options like cars, and
industrial equipment. Capital goods are meant to have a multi-year
life, and are often paid for over the item’s lifetime. Large energy
producing or consuming systems are expected to last several decades.
delivering on short-term goals to replace wasteful, fossil fuel energy
systems generates excitement, demonstrates commitment and builds
institutional momentum towards sustainable strategies, but requires a
plan to finance these alternative capital investments.
The success of
renewable power efforts will be partly determined by whether such
efforts are given consistent support by local and regional governments.
Some local governments will be hesitant to take on a leadership role if
increased short-term costs threaten to temporarily dampen their business
The solar energy
industry in California hailed the California
Solar Initiative because it created an 11-year certainty of support for
the industry through rebates. This long-term approach will allow the
industry to give investors a stable planning horizon that will give them
the confidence to change from the business-as-usual course.
The city utility in
Burlington, Vermont has invested heavily in renewable generation:
Over 46% of Burlington Electric
Department (BED)'s power mix was from renewable sources in fiscal year 2005. This was
up from 42% in 2004.
BED is continuing to pursue additional renewable sources of power such as
wind energy in an effort to add fuel diversity and to stabilize power
costs for Burlington consumers.
With fossil fuel prices at record highs, renewables act as a means to
balance the high cost of fossil fuel based energy. The cost of
generating renewable energy, especially in-state renewable energy, is
level and generally predictable; unlike fossil fuel its price is not
influenced by international and market forces beyond our control and
it does not contribute to global warming. We look forward to increasing
Burlington's supply of renewables such as wind energy not only as a way
of providing the citizens and business owners of Burlington with clean
electricity but also providing them with an affordable and reliable
supply. Renewable energy is part of a sustainable and fiscally sound
power supply portfolio.
The city of San
Francisco boasts one of the nation’s most comprehensive sustainable
energy programs. It required the use of B20 biodiesel in all city
diesel vehicles in 2006, moving to the use of B100 (100% biodlesel) in
2007. All city buildings must meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s
LEED Silver criteria for green buildings. The city passed a bond to
fund putting solar electric systems on residential buildings, and will
replace its payroll tax with a green tax credit for solar energy.
need to realize that every day new capital investment decisions are made
that will affect energy production and consumption patterns for decades
to come. To minimize energy needs a community will need to invest in
different equipment choices
that provides lasting value because it uses less energy. For example,
investing in high performance green buildings that can be expected to be
50% less costly to operate is a good deal, even if there are higher
initial design costs.
Every time a
community chooses inefficient options like centralized energy supplies,
it locks citizens into years of being less competitive. It is important
to articulate a sustainable energy future that looks two decades or so
into the future, that maximizes your chances for widespread use of
distributed, renewable energy, and that uses energy efficiently to help
avoid long-term investments that will be uncompetitive or
environmentally untenable in the future.
The primer below is
offered as a guide. It obviously cannot address current or specific
market conditions, since these are constantly changing. Renewable
technologies are evolving rapidly as well. Every community should
undertake an up-to-date investigation at the time of a sustainable
energy planning process.
renewable energy sources will be explored further:
electricity and hot water;
Hydrogen power; and
turbines (the most common type of turbine).
Vertical-axis wind turbines
(designed for capturing wind closer to the ground or tops of buildings)
Wind-capturing devices in
the atmosphere e.g. floating wind turbines
Wind energy can be used in
a decentralized network but can also be used in a conventional grid
system; wind has no ongoing emissions; requires minimal toxic or
hazardous materials for construction and operations. Its costs are
competitive to coal and natural gas, meaning that taking externalities
into account, it may be several times less expensive than nuclear or
fossil electricity that require ongoing fueling and avoidance of
Include potential wildlife
impacts, other ecological impacts,
visual impacts, maintenance challenges
Include educating government leaders and
customers about wind energy’s potential, siting and regulatory
evolving technology, wind’s intermittency, and challenges (given
intermittency) in integrating with traditional electrical grid
Getting power lines built to accommodate
intermittent wind resources is a challenge in the current structure of
U.S. power grids.
Potential Community Support Actions:
Begin with giving priority
to building wind energy infrastructure, and giving incentives to
utilities and customers to buy wind and transition away from coal.
Solar-Generated Electricity and Hot Water
Active or passive solar
energy used to heat water, which may be used directly or used to heat
Solar lighting design.
used to generate
electricity directly from sunlight.
Sunlight is the
ultimate energy resource; it needs no fuel, in most parts of the world
it is reliable (some of the largest recent solar photovoltaic
installations are in cloudy Bavaria, Germany), and it is able to operate
for long periods without maintenance, making it optimal for
“off-the-grid” and dispersed applications.
Use of toxics in
manufacturing; siting challenges; net energy contribution concerns
The cost (15+ cents per
kilowatt hour for solar electricity) makes some solar options a
difficult choice. More people will buy solar as the costs will
decrease. About a dozen new companies promise to have competitive solar
electricity within four years.
Community Support Actions:
Homeowners and businesses
have shown themselves to be enthusiastic buyers of solar when incentives
are great enough to reduce up-front costs.
Bio-gas (a substitute for
natural gas or propane) generated from biomass. Biomass can either be
specially grown or derived from waste streams—either prior to or after
Agricultural biomass is used directly or
for electrical generation.
energy—wood-fired electrical power plants; direct burning of wood for
electricity and/ or process heat; wood can also be converted to hydrogen
Biofuels for vehicles and other users of
portable liquid high-energy-density fuels, including ethanol and
biodiesel from agricultural products, agricultural wastes and food
Biomass generated waste is
carbon-neutral in that the biomass stored carbon during growth that is
released during combustion (though not at the same rate).
carbon-neutral, biomass is nevertheless carbon-based and does not
necessarily contribute to the dramatic reductions in carbon emissions
needed for climate stabilization.
Potentially fluctuating prices and supply.
Potential community support
Separate collection of
biomass from other wastes.
Incentives for use of local
agricultural products or wastes in biofuel. development, including public
support of small business development to supply local wastes or other
biofuels to processing plants and/or convert vehicles to better use
Support (such as economic
development tax or financial incentives) for pioneering biofuel retail
outlets and/or distribution systems.
Waste to energy systems –
using landfill-destined materials to generate electricity and/or process
Waste biomass to energy (see biomass section).
Can reduce impacts of waste hauling and management.
Can reduce market and hauling/shipping challenges of recycling markets.
Support local energy production enhancing energy security.
Waste to energy plants can
release toxics into the biosphere—the amount and type depending on the
plant’s design and operation and the waste inputs.
Diverts waste to energy
uses rather than reuse or recycling.
High infrastructure costs
up front require dedication of waste streams to energy production rather
than progressively more recycling.
definitions of toxic or hazardous waste to ensure they do not interfere
with economical and sustainable recycling of such wastes through
incineration or other energy-generating means.
Community Support Actions:
Ensure that landfill costs
nearly always exceed the costs of recycling, reusing or incinerating
Freshwater storage power
Essentially a solar-powered
and infinite resource.
Uses mechanical systems
that require few toxic materials although coatings are likely
toxic-based to withstand water damage.
Operations have low
ecological impact though are removing energy from an ecological system.
Power production not
proximate to electrical demand–leading to materials and potential
ecological damage from transmissions system installation and maintenance.
Dams flood ecological
systems and human land-uses (including villages/towns) and are difficult
for migrating fish to navigate.
A limited number of
sustainable hydro opportunities.
Potentially long permitting
processes–often for good reason since hydro can easily cause
long-lasting damage to riverine ecosystems and hydro sites are not often close to where
the power will be consumed.
Potential Community Support
Land use and permitting
regulations that facilitate power generation at low-head or other hydro
sites that are less ecologically destructive than big dam projects.
Geo-thermal heat converted
to steam and/or electricity.
Earth-based heat pumps that
more efficiently heat or cool buildings using the earth’s ambient
Passive earth berming
systems that moderate building temperature swings—reducing
heating/cooling loads—including thick earth-based walls of buildings.
Perhaps the least damaging
to ecosystems, unless critical habitats or unique areas are damaged by
the loss of heat to human uses.
Ecosystem damage from
development and heat removal.
Relatively few sites
available for active geothermal.
Building codes can
intentionally or accidentally interfere with innovative earth berming or
heat pump systems.
Potential Community Support Actions:
Facilitate use of
earth-based energy sources through friendly zone and development
Support studies and pilot
projects demonstrating efficacy of new technologies.
A sustainable energy
primer is not complete without briefly addressing the sustainable
attributes of a promising new energy carrier, hydrogen, and the
continued controversy regarding whether nuclear energy can be considered
a sustainable technology for generating energy.
electricity, is an energy carrier. Though a natural element, on earth
hydrogen is bound with oxygen in the very strong bonds of water. To “liberate” hydrogen
takes energy. Once liberated, the hydrogen is attracted to rebond with
oxygen to again form water. The flow of electrons generated by this
process is the basis for the electricity produced by fuel cells.
regarding whether and how the U.S. should adopt hydrogen as a preferred
carrier of its energy future include:
Is hydrogen a
more efficient carrier of energy than electricity—enough so to justify
massive investments in hydrogen carrying infrastructure?
How easily can
existing fleets be adapted to use hydrogen, if at all?
technologies will emerge as the standards for the marketplace –
facilitating investments in fueling infrastructure?
Can fuel cells
that convert hydrogen to electricity both come down in price and find
alternatives to premium metals as the catalyst?
expect technology debates regarding hydrogen vehicle technology to
continue until about 2015. Meanwhile, the question for your community
is whether there are cost-effective ways to support the development of a
hydrogen infrastructure as
this technology develops.
can substitute for coal-fired generation as a utility baseload
resource. Because the fissioning of nuclear material does not release
GHG emissions (though the nuclear lifecycle releases large amounts),
nuclear advocates claim that the technology is carbon neutral.
While some people
are concerned enough about climate change to advocate using nuclear
power as a coal substitute, most advocates do not consider nuclear to be
a cost-effective substitute, a sustainable technology, or a viable
solution. The first challenge with nuclear is its cost. New nuclear
plants rival solar electric in price. Advocates claim that new
varieties of reactors will be cheaper, but the past history of nuclear
went, in the words of the Economist Magazine, “from too cheap to meter
to too costly to matter.”
Nuclear technology is also strongly proliferative of nuclear bombs.
Spreading the domestic power technology around the world would certainly
encourage more nations to develop weapons capability.
The multi-generation liability of toxic
waste still plagues the nuclear fuel cycle, even after a half-century of
determined research. A litmus test: would your community be willing to
site a new nuclear plant or waste dump nearby? New reactor designs may
hold promise of reducing the likelihood of catastrophic accidents, but
such accidents are only the tip of the iceberg of the unsustainable
aspects of nuclear power. Given that few communities would undertake to
construct a reactor on their own, this debate is likely to be irrelevant
to a community energy plan.
There are hundreds
of barriers that inhibit people from implementing energy systems that
are preferable to what are in place now. The 1998 analysis of climate
protecting opportunities, Climate Making Sense and Making Money
listed 60–80 specific market failures of 8 types:
False or absent price signals
These include such
market imperfections as:
Lack of clarity of benefits to local community
Lack of confidence in the numbers (payback, lifecycle costs) both with city departments and private businesses
Misalignment of the incentives that electric utilities see with the broader interests of the community
The lack of “communicators” who can help all stakeholders understand the benefits of renewable energy
acknowledge people’s perceptions of risks and how those risks can be
mitigated, or how risk perceptions can be reduced
Conservatism of banks and hesitancy to deal with renewable energy investment/loan opportunities
Some local municipalities have zoning rules against solar panels & wind turbines
Three barriers are
The hassle factor
Things are working fine, why change them? Margaret Mead said that the only person who likes change is a wet baby. The challenges posed by climate change will dictate change. Cities that undertake such programs on their own timeline will enjoy a significant advantage. But overcoming the basic hassle factor will take inspired leadership.
Why should the city government
get involved in a complex field full of experts at utility and energy
service companies? As this Manual has
shown, utilities can be slow to move slowly towards a sustainable energy
future for a variety of reasons, primarily including institutional
momentum or skepticism, regulatory systems and their financial incentive
structures. Utilities are critical economic development partners and
can be encouraged to embrace the economic advantages of distributed and
sustainable energy as part of rate-reduction strategy that will help
your businesses become more globally competitive. Unless your utilities
are taking a leadership role in sustainable energy, they will benefit
from prompting – the nearly four-decade history of environmental
activism with utilities demonstrates that not all the best ideas come
from the “experts.” In short, the issues are complex but can be grasped
by talented citizen’s committees for a sustainable energy future that
will empower a community to take on matching production with end-uses,
and maximizing the economic development benefits of keeping power
generation dollars in the local economy.
The market challenges of distributed power (sustainable or not).
Distributed power generation located near the people who will use the power, and scaled to the size of consumption is a new concept for nearly all Americans. Key barriers to overcome through sustainable energy planning include:
Reluctance of citizens or organizations to enter the power production business themselves and/or make long term utility-type investments
Reluctance of financial institutions to fund utility-type investments at competitive interest rates – especially of new technologies with little collateral value
Lack of information flow to all but highly motivated citizens
All of these
barriers can be reduced through visionary planning that helps the
community understand that its energy future should be in its own hands;
that the experts do not have all the answers; and that the energy
security and other benefits of a more sustainable approach are serious
economic development advantages.
power technologies systems gained a reputation, (deserved or not) for
poor performance/ excessive maintenance, safety, cost, aesthetics and
provider reliability/ stability.
pioneering technologies, sustainable energy efforts have suffered from
some ideas being ahead of available materials, design or maintenance
capabilities. Too many people remain stuck in that past rather than
observing the almost daily maturation of sustainable energy systems.
Modern renewable energy is a far cry
from early systems. Public education is the remedy. Many communities
sponsor sustainable living fairs or events that help citizens understand
and welcome sustainable technologies.
Cities and regions
can plan for a sustainable energy future: maximizing renewable energy
sources; using market forces to balance energy prices through inclusion
of externalities in energy prices; and supporting renewable investments
through favorable regulations and financing.
While much research
and experimentation to determine the right strategy for your community,
a significant community of sustainable energy planning practitioners and
proven practices is already available to guide the efforts of your
community. Modern technologies to save energy and generate renewable
energy communities can profitably protect the climate and the economy.
Race to the Top: The expanding role of U.S. State Renewable Portfolio
Standards, Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, June 2006, Author:
Barry G. Rabe, University
This report builds on earlier Pew Center analyses of the evolving state role in climate
policy development, placing a particular focus on the RPS experience to
date. It presents an overview of this policy tool and examines key
factors in both policy formation and implementation. This work considers
the experience of all RPS states but devotes particular attention to
five case studies: Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Colorado
that illustrate both common themes and points of
divergence among individual state programs. The analysis concludes with
an examination of RPS performance to date and some of the leading
opportunities and challenges facing future development.
American Energy Initiative Report
"The American Energy Initiative is a
joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American
Progress focused on educating and
inspiring the public and policymakers on the importance of renewable
energy to the economic, environmental and national security of the
United States. The report, American Energy: The
Renewable Path to Energy Security, demonstrates the potential of
renewable energy and energy efficiency and presents a practical policy
agenda for achieving them."
copy of the report is available on the web at:
Opportunity - U.S. Department of Energy Grant, Solar America Initiative
(SAI) Market Transformation: Solar City Strategic Partnerships.
For incorporated cities with populations greater than 100,000.
Application deadline: January 10, 2007
2 November, 2006,
Island Renewable Portfolio--Prince
Edward Island is planning to produce 30% of its total energy needs from
local, renewable resources by 2016.
BioTown, USA--this project’s long term goal
is to meet all the energy needs of Reynolds, Indiana via biorenewable
resources, including electricity, natural gas replacement, and