Green House Gases (GHGs) emissions and energy demand have risen high on the global environmental agenda - given the magnitude of GHG emissions from cities, urban energy efficiency is a significant challenge that requires special consideration. The role of city planners and the construction industry is essential as they create the necessary pre-conditions for energy savings opportunities to be realized at the local level.
Some important aspects of energy efficient urban infrastructure include (a) maximizing the energy efficiency of building and infrastructure operations through the use of renewable resources, decentralized co-generation and energy cascading techniques in a manner which optimizes integrated energy flows and minimizes potential global environmental impacts such as GHG emissions, and (b) linking producers and consumers of energy and materials throughout the community, city and surrounding regions to facilitate resource exchanges and recycling networks.
For example, mitigating and reducing the impacts contributed by many urban activities is a significant challenge for urban planners, designers, architects and the local industry, especially in the context of population and urban growth, and the associated infrastructure requirements. It is therefore important to encourage environmentally sound management of urban areas through more energy and resource efficient eco-design, infrastructure development, and construction practices. A similar scenario can be drawn for urban transportation. Increased transportation, as an offshoot of the growing/globalizing economies, has led to pollution, climate change, traffic congestion, and sprawl - people are driving more cars further distances for longer periods of time. The result is environmental decline, and poorer health for urban residents as well as a poorer environment for the city as a whole.
There is a clear need for a comprehensive and holistic review from the perspective of three fundamental issues: (1) sustainability -- how much and at what rate is energy consumed, and its effect on long term sustainability; the quality and quantity of available alternative/renewable forms of energy; and the effect of existing energy use on the global environment as a whole; (2) efficiency -- the technology, planning and management of energy systems that will facilitate efficient use of energy for human activity, particularly transportation; and (3) equity -- the appropriate financial mechanism for research, development and use of finite and alternative energy forms, and their equitable distribution for all humankind.
Ultimately, development and environmental issues go hand-in-hand, and an understanding of these issues is crucial to developing nations on their transition to sustainable economies. UNEP's monograph, "Energy Savings in Cities: Issues, Strategies and Options for Local Governments" provides information to decision-makers in developing countries on how they might reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while saving on energy costs.
In ten easy to use chapters that is spiced with many case studies, the monograph covers energy use in cities in different sectors domestic, transport, commercial, industrial and public sectors. It also covers other topics such as using local energy resources, financial issues, local energy planning, and benefits of energy savings. An extensive section on resources and further information is also provided.
The key recommendation made in the monograph is the setting up of an Urban Energy Plan (UEP), designed to be a tool for local decision makers in the energy field. Examples of such an UEP include analyses of all the energy uses of the city, with the level of consumption, the kind of energy consumed and its forecasted evolution; identification of the key priorities; description of the recommended investments; details of the envisaged financing plan; monitoring schemes etc.
The monograph's raison d'Ítre of an UEP as the establishment of a baseline energy consumption of the city and the determination of energy consumption reduction targets for the future that should take into account the reasonable needs and the expected city growth and modernisation at medium and long term. Furthermore, the basic role of the UEP, which is revised periodically, is to provide for a permanent follow-up and to make the key cities- authorities really sensitive to the energy issue.