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Public Interest Energy Research Program: Final Project Report

cover of report Sustainable Urban Energy Planning: A Roadmap for Research and Funding

Publication Number: CEC-500-2005-102
Publication Date: June 2005
PIER Program Area: Energy-Related Environmental Research

The executive summary, abstract and table of contents for this report are available below. This publication is available as an Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format Files. In order to download, read and print PDF files, you will need a copy of the free Acrobat Reader software installed in and configured for your computer. The software can be downloaded from Adobe Systems Incorporated's website.

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Executive Summary

California's local governments are in a position to play a critical role in advancing the state's policies for the reliability, affordability, and environmental sustainability of its electric energy supply. The regulatory and institutional landscape of federal and state energy policy makes local governments critical partners in promoting efficient resource use, market transformation, and location efficiency within the built environment. Because the PIER program is funded by a surcharge on electric utility ratepayer bills, this report is primarily concerned with electricity production and use. Although some of the recommended research agenda will also have implications on transportation energy use, transportation research is handled by other divisions and agencies mandated for such research. Local governments have strong reasons to promote what can be considered sustainable urban energy planning practices, and a number of local governments throughout California are already doing so. Among the main energy-related concerns driving local action are: the need for price stability; the public health and safety consequences of energy unreliability; the centrality of affordable and reliable energy to economic development; strong public support for environmental initiatives; quality of life considerations; and environmental justice demands by disproportionately impacted communities.

However, local governments also face formidable obstacles to greater participation that create risk and uncertainty. These obstacles include: a lack of awareness of (or knowledge gaps about) program and policy options and effectiveness; technical gaps that result from a lack of effective tools and a historical avoidance of energy issues within the urban planning profession; competing priorities that draw scarce attention and fiscal resources; regulatory obstacles caused by the shifting policy terrain and fractured decision-making; and institutional mismatches between overall system issues and the scope of local action. Together these obstacles reinforce one another, creating an inhospitable environment for action and preventing local governments from taking advantage of most of the available opportunities—or sometimes from even taking the first step.

Local governments can engage in sustainable energy planning in three primary ways. First is within their own operations. Local governments are often large users of electricity in buildings and public facilities, in water systems, and in other capital infrastructure such as streetlights. Efficient energy use within the public realm is directly tied to cost reductions and provides the most direct incentive for local action.

Second, local governments can promote efficient energy use and alternative resources in the private sector through their dominant role in shaping the built environment. Potential areas for action include: improving building efficiency in existing construction; promoting energy efficiency in new buildings (in both commercial and residential sectors); facilitating the siting of distributed generation resources; and incorporating energy-efficient site planning and urban design in new development.

Third, local governments can help shape long-term development patterns in order to promote location efficiency and reduce the effects of urbanization on the energy system and the environment in general. Measures include growth management planning at both the city/neighborhood and regional scale, and this planning necessarily involves linkages with the transportation system that facilitates and underpins development. Apart from these direct local actions, effective planning support tools can help planners, citizens, and policy makers visualize the long-term consequence of alternative growth choices and improve the overall decision making process, while alternative planning techniques may help provide local governments with supplemental information for consideration within state and federally mandated planning.

This Public Interest Energy Research Environmental Area (PIER-EA) roadmap identifies four research goals that should be addressed to help localities and regions in California develop sustainable urban energy plans and benefit from the energy and environmental savings:

  1. Develop a better understanding of the environmental, economic, and equity impacts of embedded and operational energy needs of urban infrastructure systems and urbanization. The energy profiles of alternative development patterns and alternative water supply and treatment strategies are not well known. Because many urban management decisions occur without the benefit of such information, officials are unable to adequately assess the full impact of their decisions. This situation perpetuates and extends potential inefficiencies and delays adoption of new technologies and practices that would benefit California and its citizens.

  2. Identify the local environmental, economic, and equity benefits of sustainable urban energy planning, particularly with respect to the private sector. The area for the greatest gains in energy resource efficiency within an urban center rests with the private sector; yet local governments without their own electric utilities often see energy-related activities (outside of managing their own consumption) as the province of the state or of the investor-owned utilities. As such, they are reluctant to expend their scarce resources in this area or attempt unproven policies with uncertain ends. Even though local governments recognize that an assurance of stable prices and reliability give them a comparative advantage and better-positions them to compete for economic development opportunities, the fear of unintended consequences and diminished private sector revenue-generating activities leaves them reluctant to be proactive in that area.

    Scientific assessment of the local costs, benefits, and impacts of energy-related activities and policies would help local officials make informed decisions regarding these measures, increasing the likelihood of acceptance by the private sector and subsequent local action.

  3. Develop information and materials that lead to a better understanding of sustainable urban energy planning options and practices. Local officials often face significant constraints and are unable to devote the fiscal, technical, and institutional resources necessary to operating active and effective energy programs. The costs of simply tracking certain regulatory processes related to energy issues of interest to local governments are high, and statewide efforts to coordinate and educate local energy practitioners and promote new local activities are inadequate. Although there exist myriad best-practice manuals, model policies, and case studies, the information is scattered among a variety of disparate sources, lacks extensive evaluation, and is less than comprehensive. Virtually every local government energy practitioner interviewed as part of this roadmap noted the significant technical, fiscal, and programmatic constraints facing their jurisdiction.

  4. Develop effective decision support tools and methods for sustainable urban energy planning. Although local and regional governments across California have taken on energy-related activities as part of their greenhouse gas reduction plans, sustainable development strategies, or general operations, they have a limited set of tools for their efforts. Current planning processes do not incorporate energy considerations into their frameworks, and the tools and techniques used to carry out them out provide no information of their energy-related impacts. The development of effective decision-support tools and techniques will help local California officials and citizens take informed steps to smarter energy use in the built environment.

In the short-term (1–3 years), this roadmap recommends that research address the objectives in the table on the following page. This research covers a broad spectrum of work ranging from comparative case studies of current local efforts to complex multivariate analyses of the links between urbanization and energy use to improved street lighting technology. This roadmap also identifies mid-term (3–10 year) and long-term (10–20 year) objectives, all of which build on the work listed in the table. This roadmap outlines a comprehensive research agenda to fully address the gaps identified in this document. Due to limited funding and critical research needs in other areas, PIER will only be able to support some of the identified projects. PIER will consider this roadmap and other research priorities to determine the level of support for research stemming from this roadmap.

The successful completion of the projects identified by this roadmap will help California's local governments take a more proactive and informed role in furthering more efficient energy use and reducing the environmental impacts of energy production, transmission, and consumption. The projects contained in this roadmap address a number of municipal functions, concerns, and areas for local involvement that will influence statewide energy use and infrastructure.

The products of this research will be useful to local, regional, and state planners; citizens; and elected officials by helping them better understand the energy-related impacts of their public investment and regulatory decisions. Moreover, it will help planners and decision-makers craft appropriate programs and policy responses to address those impacts. For example, this research can help build the policy and business cases for aggressive incorporation of high-performance building practices into public and private projects, spur integration of community development and energy efficiency programs, or provide additional reinforcement to growth management efforts. The information and tools generated should be useful for policy makers, municipal managers, businesses, and citizens in shaping local responses to ameliorate the energy-related impacts of urbanization.



Abstract

None available.



Table of Contents

Preface

Executive Summary

Roadmap Organization

1. Issue Statement

2. Public Interest Vision

3. Background

3.1 Energy Use in California

3.2 Sustainability

3.2.1 Energy Sustainability

3.2.2 Energy Sustainability in California

3.3 Energy Sustainability and Cities

3.3.1 Urbanization Trends in California

3.4 California's Local Government – Sustainable Energy Planning Nexus

3.4.1 The Policy Context

3.4.2 The Role of Local Government

3.4.3 Progress and Evolution of Local Involvement in Energy Policy and Planning

3.4.4 Local Energy-Related Concerns

3.4.5 Obstacles to Sustainable Urban Energy Planning

4. Research, Program Activities, and Knowledge Gaps

4.1 Institutional and Programmatic Factors

4.1.1 Organization of California's Local Government Energy Programs

4.1.2 Local Energy Program Effectiveness

4.2 Efficiency and Renewable Energy Within the Public Realm

4.2.1 Public Facilities

4.2.2 Water Infrastructure

4.2.3 Other Capital Infrastructure

4.2.4 Local Generation

4.2.5 Community Development through Energy and Water Use Efficiency

4.3 Capturing Efficiencies in the Private Sector

4.3.1 Improving Building Efficiency

4.3.2 Distributed Generation Resources

4.3.3 Energy-Efficient Site Planning

4.4 Shaping Long-term Development and Land Use Patterns

4.4.1 Understanding the Energy Effects of Urban Form

4.4.2 Smart Growth

4.5 Crosscutting Issues

4.5.1 Decision Support Tools

4.5.2 Alternative Planning Approaches

5. Research Goals

5.1 Short-term Goals

5.1.1 Develop a better understanding of the embedded environmental impacts and operational energy needs of urban infrastructure systems and urbanization

5.1.2 Demonstrate the local environmental, economic, and equity benefits of sustainable urban energy planning, particularly with respect to the private sector

5.1.3 Develop information and materials that lead to a better understanding of local and regional sustainable urban energy planning options and practices

5.1.4 Develop effective decision support tools and methods for sustainable urban energy planning

5.2 Mid-Term Goals

5.2.1 Develop a better understanding of the embedded environmental impacts and operational energy needs of urban infrastructure systems and urbanization

5.2.2 Demonstrate the local environmental, economic, and equity benefits of sustainable urban energy planning, particularly with respect to the private sector

5.2.3 Develop information and materials that lead to a better understanding of local and regional sustainable urban energy planning options and practices

5.2.4 Develop effective decision support tools and methods for sustainable urban energy planning

5.3 Long-Term Goals

5.3.1 Develop a better understanding of the embedded environmental impacts and operational energy needs of urban infrastructure systems and urbanization

5.3.2 Demonstrate the local environmental, economic, and equity benefits of sustainable urban energy planning, particularly with respect to the private sector

5.3.3 Develop information and materials that lead to a better understanding of local and regional sustainable urban energy planning options and practices

5.3.4 Develop effective decision support tools and methods for sustainable urban energy planning

6. Leveraging Research and Development Investments

6.1 Methods of Leveraging

6.2 Opportunities

7. Areas Not Addressed by This Roadmap

7.1 Outside Reviewers' Additional Research Suggestions that This Roadmap

8. References

Table of Abbreviations

Appendix A Relevant Research Resources

Appendix B Interviewees


List of Figures

Figure 1. California energy in 2003 use by fuel type

Figure 2. Electricity consumption and peak use by sector

Figure 3. Historic electricity demand 1960–2000

Figure 4. Historic per capita electricity consumption 1960–2000

Figure 5. California's urban footprint, 1998 and 2100

Figure 6. Typical city energy use

Figure 7. Lighting effects of alternative streetlight fixtures

Figure 8. Alternative community designs

Figure 9. Alternative urban forms


List of Tables

Table 1. Short-term goals


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