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Key Issues in
Urban Energy Management

Current patterns of energy use (especially based on fossil-based fuels) raise serious concerns for three reasons - the finite natural reserves of such energy; its detrimental effects on the global environment and the threat to long term sustainability. There is a legal and moral obligation to create an energy use pattern that ensures energy efficiency, protects environmental integrity, and maintains and enhances the strength of our local economy.

One of the key causes for environmental damage in both developing and OECD countries is the way in which energy is extracted, distributed and used. The need is therefore particularly strong for a shift from current preference of energy derived from finite, fossil-based fuels, to one that is cleaner, low-carbon, renewable forms of energy.

A number of trends in energy management is driving this need for change. Principle among them is the multiplier effect of using green low-impact and cleaner energy forms. Many of today's economic activities are greatly dependent on energy supply. Using green energy not only enables saving on the economic front, it also facilitates action on other green aspects. For example, activities related to environmental remediation such as managing hazardous waste, cleaning water, pollution remediation etc. are all energy-intensive tasks themselves.

Many of the global environmental problems that we are currently facing - climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification etc. - need at its core a campaign towards cleaner and greener energy that will stimulate action in other fronts in governance, education and technologies.

Ultimately, it is the human dimension that will benefit from clean energy. Inefficient energy management and use greatly affect air, water or land quality that ultimately impacts human health. Switching to a cleaner form of energy is in itself a significant multiplier for improving human health.

Energy Attributes
Three key issues will define the shape and future of energy in cities -
  • 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.
  • efficiency -- the technology, planning and management of energy systems that will facilitate efficient use of energy for human activity (including its non-use!).
  • equity -- the appropriate financial mechanism for research, development and use of finite and alternative energy forms, and their equitable distribution for all humankind.
    There is a clear need to break down the above three broad issues into smaller and more tangible components for proper implementation, without 'missing the forest for the trees'.
The move towards reduction in use of fossil fuels has to go hand-in-hand with (a) exploring alternative energy sources, (b) linking energy with global environmental issues (for example climate change or global warming), (c) co-relating environmental management efficiency with energy efficiency and (d) changes in lifestyles and increase in community involvement.

Ultimately, a number of questions on energy attributes will need to be answered in order to develop an appropriate and workable mix of energy policies.

They primarily include for example, the sources of energy (specifically renewable - solar, wind, tidal and wave, biomass, geothermal etc.), and the long-term sustainability of the energy source.

A good energy policy mix will also include procedures for planning and management of energy policies.

There are essentially three key enabling factors that ensure the success of energy policies - (a) the underlying laws, codes and standards: (b) engineering and technology solutions at all stages of energy generation, transmission and use, and (c) financing for a good sustainable energy policy available for all stakeholders involved in the energy sector - from companies, R&D institutions, and end-users.

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