APA Policy Guide on Energy
Original Version Ratified by the Board of Directors, April 25, 2004
Updated Version Ratified by the Board of Directors, October 1, 2012
The American Planning Association (APA)1 supports measures and policies to address the rising energy costs for homes, businesses, and transportation while enhancing our energy security as a nation and reducing dependency on foreign sources. Planning for energy and the impacts of energy generation enables greater economic freedom for all Americans. The declarations below support this goal.
Running throughout the declarations are the concepts of conservation and efficiency. Americans must conserve energy and make its generation and application to our lives more efficient. Over the near term, conservation will be the most productive strategy as efficiencies take time for infrastructure to be put in place, new technology to be developed, and financial mechanisms designed where technology already exists.
Policy declarations regarding energy are in many cases closely linked to the policy declarations under Surface Transportation, Climate Change, Smart Growth, and Sustainability. These are intentionally not repeated in this declaration. Please refer directly to these closely allied policy declarations.
1.0 National Energy Planning Policy
APA encourages adoption of a long-term sustainable national energy policy, addressing decreasing availability of petroleum, energy self-sufficiency, economic competiveness, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental protection, and social equity. This policy should recognize and separate the long-term development of replacement and alternative energy sources from short-term fluctuations in market prices for energy. This policy should also recognize the impact that energy-efficient land use patterns, building design, and transportation modalities have on the demand for energy.
2.0 Best Practices in Conservation & Efficiency
APA encourages planners and decision makers to make energy conservation and efficiency major criteria when making and evaluating plans, programs, projects, and policies. APA affirms that in the short- and mid-term energy conservation becomes a hallmark of energy policy while new infrastructure and technology introduce more long-term improvements and security into the energy system.
3.0 Data and Measurement
APA recognizes the importance of easy, consistent, and affordable access to energy data at the community level as an integral component of energy, sustainability, healthy communities, and climate planning. Further, APA recognizes the importance of measurement as a means to document communitywide energy consumption patterns; establish benchmarks; develop energy conservation and efficiency strategies, data security, and privacy; and regularly assess and benchmark performance and progress. APA also recognizes the importance of measuring impacts on the public's health.
4.0 Energy Effects
APA encourages evaluating the energy effects along with other impacts resulting from proposed plans and development as well as the siting of energy generation and transmission facilities in order to mitigate their adverse impacts on land use, environment, economy, quality of life, and national security.
5.0 Environmental Justice
APA supports state and federal and local communities in striving to attain environmental equity and justice with regard to the siting of energy facilities, resource extraction, energy generation, distribution infrastructure, and energy-related waste disposal.
6.0 Education and Consultation
APA members will take an important role in educating their communities on the interrelated issues of energy, climate change, and sustainability; the importance of understanding energy consumption patterns; and strategies for reducing consumption and emissions, ranging from energy efficiency and conservation to renewable energy technologies.
7.0 Renewable Energy
APA supports legislation and regulations that reduce dependence on fossil fuels and stimulate the development of environmentally sensitive renewable energy at the federal, state, and local level. APA also supports the development of numeric targets for the renewable share of all energy used in the U.S., especially for electricity, transportation, heating, and cooling. The siting of renewable energy facilities, like all energy facilities, must take into account the environmental impacts, local setting, and land use plans for the location.
8.0 Nuclear Energy
APA supports continued investment in existing nuclear facilities and the development of new nuclear facilities as a part of the energy supply, preceded by the resolution and development of safe, permanent nuclear waste disposal facilities and enhanced emergency preparedness, including retrofitting existing facilities to assure safety in the event of natural disasters. The aging of existing facilities also requires immediate attention to assure the reliability of energy generation as well as safety of the facility.
9.0 Natural Gas Resources
APA supports the use of domestic natural gas as an energy fuel only in those cases where the extraction process is both transparent to the public and consistent with minimizing impacts to ground and surface waters, as well as land and air resources. Current production techniques for unconventional gas, primarily shale gas and coal bed methane, should be subject to regulatory oversight at the state and local level, addressing the quality and quantity of surface and ground water resources, air quality, and environmental risks.
10.0 Transportation Efficiency
APA supports planning and development that increase transportation efficiencies, including development of technology and infrastructure conducive to the expanding use of lightweight, alternative fuel vehicles, and the increased use of other more energy-efficient transportation modes including transit, bikeways, and pedestrian access.
11.0 Distributed Energy Generation
APA supports distributed energy generation systems that utilize community energy generation and "smart grid" public infrastructure that supports both conservation and energy efficiency.
12.0 Smart Grid Technology
APA supports modernization of the nation's electrical grid that will allow for the efficient integration of innovative technologies such as renewable energy systems and electric vehicles, and makes it possible to offer dynamic electricity pricing options that can reduce strain on the grid while benefitting consumers. Advances in metering technology also create opportunities to provide consumers with access to more information about their electricity usage and costs, which can inform their decisions about energy consumption.
13.0 Building Retrofit and Design
APA supports the use of and continued research into techniques, materials, and policies including building siting, that result in the construction of low- or "zero-" energy buildings and the efficient, affordable upgrading and retrofit of existing structures. Building siting, design, overall community layout, and water consumption are major factors in energy demand and consumption. Land use planning should be integrated with concerns regarding energy conservation and generation.
14.0 Energy Facility Siting
APA supports the preservation of existing local land use authority with input from and coordination with regional stakeholders in review and approval of environmental and aesthetic considerations in the siting of energy generation and transmission facilities.
15.0 Research and Development
APA recognizes that in the short and mid-term, oil, coal, and natural gas will continue to be significant sources of energy for the United States and other nations until other forms of energy can be developed at a scale to adequately replace the world's reliance on fossil fuels. Therefore, continued focused research and development in improving the efficient use of these sources while reducing the environmental costs must be a high priority for the United States. APA also supports expanded research and development funding and efforts to create and improve alternative and renewable energy sources and the development of energy transition scenarios for use by local officials and the general public.
16.0 Greenhouse Gas Emissions
APA endorses an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 through carbon pricing or incentives. APA supports energy policies and programs that are consistent with that goal and does not support policies and programs inconsistent with that goal.
17.0 The Future of Coal
APA recognizes the role coal has played, and continues to play, in the generation of electricity. APA supports the new emission standards designed to reduce mercury and greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired generation, and recommends against relaxation of these standards. Major investments in coal facilities should be carefully weighed against the benefits achieved from making comparable investments in conservation, renewables, and energy efficiency.
18.0 Unconventional Petroleum
APA affirms that unconventional petroleum resources, including oil shale and tar sands, are not a viable long-term replacement for conventional oil. APA recommends that any production, transmission, or conversion facilities for unconventional oil be subject to review of long-term impacts to climate and environment. APA opposes the use of direct or indirect government subsidies for development of unconventional petroleum resources. This opposition extends to the further development of pipelines and terminal facilities for the import and export of any unconventional petroleum that does not meet the goal of adhering to adopted environmental regulations and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Definitions, Key Facts, and Rationale
1.0 National Energy Policy
We must transform our current energy system to a sustainable, clean energy future in order to assure energy self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, and social equity. While actions at the local and personal levels have been at the forefront of many of these efforts, we must also address long-term energy supplies and infrastructure, energy efficiency, and energy conservation at the national level.
Energy infrastructure and systems are global; the U.S. should lead the change needed through a long-term, sustained, coordinated effort and significant shifts in energy investments. In the past, national and state energy strategies have all too frequently been determined by short term fluctuations in energy markets, rather than reflecting the longer term trends in global energy supply. In addition, neither the true price of carbon nor the life-cycle impacts of energy choices have been captured with this short-term view. The lack of long-term policy also results in regulatory uncertainty and piecemeal decision making.
In the absence of a national energy policy, the energy markets see no clear signal that a transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels towards renewable energy, including energy efficiency and conservation, is needed. During periods when the interaction of economic cycles, fiscal policy, and supply strategies work to reduce our energy demand and increase our supply, the price of fossil fuels fall — along with interest in renewable energy. Conversely, price increases, due to supply shortages or increasing demands, have been damped down sufficiently through the availability of "excess capacity" to again depress deployment of alternative energy technologies. This market manipulation by large exporters (OPEC) has been able to maintain petroleum prices in a range where renewables seemed always to be uneconomic.
Over the last decade, this "excess capacity" has been greatly diminished, as demonstrated by price spikes resulting from the inability of exporters to respond to increasing demand with increasing supply. This new era of permanently tight supplies of oil will be marked by increasing and volatile prices for energy. Ten of 11 post–WWII recessions were associated with oil price spikes.
A national energy policy would provide the framework to guide the long-term transformation of our energy system. Such a policy would include a clear statement regarding the transformation to renewable energy; identify the ongoing role of domestic oil, natural gas, and coal resources; specify targets for renewable energy (as is done now by several state level renewable resource portfolio standards); identify efficiency and infrastructure priorities; recognize the full life-cycle costs of energy options; and provide incentives for research and development. A national policy would also send a clear signal to the energy markets regarding where energy companies should invest their capital. Regulatory certainty would be increased, providing a context for funding future infrastructure projects and for making permitting decisions on major energy projects.
A primary element of this national energy policy would be carbon pricing, implemented through either a cap-and-trade or carbon tax. In either case, the mechanism would provide for an initially low but steadily increasing cost for industrial and eventually all users of fossil fuels. The APA Policy Guide on Climate Change endorses carbon pricing or incentives to achieve GHG reduction targets.
2.0 Best Practices in Conservation and Efficiency
The relationship between planners and decision makers and issues related to energy consumption, development, conservation, and related impacts must be supported by a set of best practices that rigorously inform the making and evaluating of plans, programs, and policies.
First, land-use planning for any specific area is dependent upon the inventory of current and future energy supply available to that area. Local energy utilities (electric and gas) are integral to that supply. Community design criteria should reflect knowledge of the modes of available energy supplies and the technologies for their distribution and consumption. Therefore land use plans require input from the utilities sector. Expect the range of participants to evolve as energy considerations are folded into land use planning.
Second, to a large extent, tomorrow's energy options are the product of today's policy initiatives. For example, natural gas-fueled vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids compete with each other to become tomorrow's prevailing transportation technology. Each technology requires vastly different logistical infrastructure, and each poses unique implications for land use planning. The sheer unpredictability of technology emergence and evolution suggests that planners should consider a variety of possible energy price and supply-mix scenarios in land-use and transportation planning.
Third, society's future effective energy use depends on some combination of generation, conservation, and efficiency gains. In some instances, consumption of some energy forms should be encouraged to offset consumption of other resources. In the near term, societal energy performance is achieved with assets, structures, and occupancy patterns currently in place. In other words, the near term provides few opportunities to rebuild or replace the infrastructure that drives energy consumption. In the near term, therefore, conservation is the most effective response to energy cost and supply disruption. Medium-term opportunities (5-10 years out) will focus on the retrofit (rather than the replacement) of existing assets. From the land-use planner's perspective, this suggests design criteria that accommodate modularity of mechanical systems. Long-term planning (10+ years) will accommodate new construction. Energy generation and use considerations will impact the density and design of construction.
3.0 Data and Measurement
Utility data are typically held by several companies, governments, and organizations, which record data in various formats and for the purpose of billing, not measuring consumption. Most utilities have no requirement or self interest in providing data, and thus some are responsive to data requests while others are not. It is important to also note that all data typically gathered for a greenhouse gas inventory, such as water, waste, and transportation data, has unique barriers and challenges. Working with utilities, energy professionals, and other data providers, planners should develop standard protocols for data sharing between communities and utilities, private companies, and other relevant parties in the areas of data collection, formatting, and reporting. These agreements should meet the needs of communities while addressing the likely issues of data security, privacy, and logistics of sharing large amounts of data.
Communitywide data can be used to develop a baseline measurement to analyze energy consumption and develop strategies to reduce consumption. Baseline metrics are important for the following reasons:
- Accurate data. Actual consumption data provide a more precise picture of a community's energy consumption in contrast to national or regional averages.
- Consistency of data points. Consistency between communities allows for comparisons between jurisdictions.
- Data indicators. Data help identify strategic approaches a community can target.
- Measuring consumption. Benchmarking energy consumption allows comparison with past performance.
- Calculating past and future consumption. Knowing past and projecting future energy consumption is useful for selecting strategies and setting goals.
- Identifying strategies. The greatest opportunity to reduce energy consumption is to develop strategies targeting the highest energy-consuming sectors and buildings.
4.0 Energy Impacts
Land use, transportation, building codes, and infrastructure all directly impact energy consumption. A greenfield development may require expensive new infrastructure, or a growing population may require building a new power plant; similarly, inefficiently constructed buildings may consume excessive energy. All of these circumstances create economic, environmental, and security concerns that impact all consumers.
Currently, evaluation of energy impacts is not a typical component of development review. Therefore, many opportunities are missed to improve efficiency and avoid adverse impacts on land use, water quality, environment, economy, quality of life, and national security.
Some local governments are now moving towards planning for energy efficiency and assessing how development can impact energy generation, delivery, and consumption; and not just at a municipal government or individual site development level; but also at a communitywide scale. Energy is beginning to be acknowledged as an important element in planning for future development.
5.0 Environmental Equity
Energy generation and transmission, and the waste and pollution these activities produce, challenge communities and often create serious societal problems. Environmental equity describes the use of policy and programs by planners and government in ensuring that no segment of the population bears a disproportionate share of the negative externalities of environmental pollution or is denied access to environmental benefits. High-profile legal disputes and scientific studies analyzing the siting of hazardous waste facilities near traditionally disadvantaged minority or low-income communities have precipitated increased citizen interest in advocating against land uses that create negative consequences for the surrounding community.
Planners have an ethical responsibility to advocate for those traditionally disadvantaged communities who are seen to offer the least resistance to and suffer more from environmentally damaging land uses than other groups. Through government-led policy and programs, planners can promote environmental equity to ensure that all communities are equally protected from and burdened by negative environmental consequences of energy generation. The basic premise is that those who benefit the most should also bear most of the responsibility for any detriments stemming from the activity that generates the benefits. Early application of the tenets of environmental equity can avoid costly and lengthy legal battles and thus bring necessary energy-related facilities on line more quickly and efficiently.
6.0 Education and Consultation
Rising costs and changing energy needs raise economic, environmental, and even security concerns that impact communities, households, and businesses. Without concerted, comprehensive actions from policy makers to community members, these concerns will only intensify. Reducing consumption, and thereby costs, is essential for addressing economic and environmental concerns. And decreasing dependency on imported fossil fuels is critical in addressing energy security concerns. However, education is a key component of action. Therefore, planners have a critical role in educating not only themselves on energy issues, but their communities as well.
As communities begin to think about energy in a comprehensive manner, planners need to be at the forefront leading policy and action. The decisions made by planners regarding land use, density, transportation, infrastructure siting, zoning codes, and building codes determine where and how we build, thereby directly impacting energy consumption at both the individual and community scales. Furthermore, traditional planning tools and practices, such as the comprehensive planning process and a long-standing commitment to stakeholder engagement, are crucial elements in effectively addressing energy concerns through policy, regulation, and education.
Planners have recently begun to incorporate energy into the comprehensive planning process through the development of energy plans. While not the focus of this policy guide, it is important to acknowledge the significance of energy consumption and energy efficiency in sustainability, climate, and similar plans.
Energy plans focus on communitywide energy consumption and patterns with an integrated set of energy efficiency and conservation strategies designed to reduce energy demand, consumption and costs, decrease the reliance on energy from fossil fuels, and encourage renewable energy generation and use. Analysis of potential energy savings, financial feasibility, broad-based support, and timeframe should help planners and communities prioritize actions. But understanding a community's energy consumption patterns is crucial for knowing what to implement and what is the starting point from which to measure progress.
As planners provide leadership and respond effectively to emerging energy issues, planners should commit to educating themselves and the planning profession, educating elected and appointed officials, integrating energy into all facets of planning, and identifying experts as partners for long term collaboration.
7.0 Renewable Energy
Increasing the share of energy produced through renewable technologies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and enhance energy and national security. Renewable energy can also reduce strain on the existing energy grid and infrastructure, because it can often be generated and distributed on a local, decentralized basis. Available technologies are diverse and developing quickly.
Some renewable energy technologies are currently competitive on the market. Others, however, are not yet cost competitive. Governmental support for development of these technologies is warranted to encourage private investment in renewables. Local governments and their planners have an important role to play in promoting renewable energy. Indeed, cities are at the forefront of many efforts to expand renewable energy. These efforts include comprehensive energy planning, incentives, demonstration projects, education, and national and international alliances.
Many tools are available to state and local governments through incentives, regulations, and by setting a positive example. They include the following, among others:
- Tax incentives, loans or grants for renewable energy
- Renewable construction requirements
- Utility renewable portfolio and quota requirements
- Offering operations as a positive model
- Siting protections for solar access, and wind turbines and wind farms
- Updating zoning and permitting processes to allow local renewable energy production
- Model or demonstration projects
- Public education
8.0 Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy is an important policy issue because of legitimate concerns related to operational safety and the disposal of nuclear waste. Nuclear energy offers an alternative to fossil fuel for electricity generation while renewable energy continues to be advanced towards large-scale implementation. Safely extending the life of the 104 existing nuclear power plants in the U.S. past their 60-year lifespan continues the availability of that alternative. As part of that process, existing nuclear facilities — as well as any new ones constructed — must be strengthened to protect public safety and health in the event of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Existing facilities must also be upgraded to assure operational reliability and safety as the anticipated lifespan for many facilities is nearing its end.
However, technology and facilities that allow for the proper and complete disposal of nuclear waste must precede any new potential development of nuclear power. Currently, most waste is stored in on-site pools, but these are running out of space. No matter how well regulated, these pools are still a public health and national security concern. It is crucial that a permanent solution to nuclear waste be determined before nuclear power is advanced further.
Conventional nuclear plants are fueled with uranium which is mined using shallow mining techniques. Extreme care is required to ensure no downstream or downwind contamination occurs; thus, the standards for uranium mining should be exceedingly stringent.
9.0 Natural Gas Resources
Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than heavier hydro-carbon fuels such as coal and oil. World gas resources are plentiful.
Natural gas resources have been tapped for decades. More recently, "shale gas" deposits have been successfully tapped through the application of hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking") techniques. Whereas production of U.S. conventional gas has likely already peaked and is in terminal decline, U.S. shale gas production has been growing and now makes up nearly a quarter of total domestic gas production.
The country's shale gas reserves are significant, although initial heady claims of a "100-year supply" have since been drastically reduced downward,2 and the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that "there remains considerable uncertainty regarding the size and economics of this resource."3 Moreover, many of the GHG-reduction benefits associated with switching to natural gas may not apply to shale gas, as production of the latter is significantly more energy intensive. As such, APA should urge policymakers and planners to be conservative regarding projections of future natural gas supplies and prices, particularly as they impact decisions about local power generation.
Conventional natural gas deposits have been used for many years with extraction by vertical drilling. Unconventional natural gas deposits are often lower in concentration, dispersed over large areas, and generally require well stimulation other extraction or conversion technology to access. Extremely large supplies of non-conventional natural gas deposits exist in the United States. Only a fraction has been extracted to date. Much of these resources are bound up in shale deposits
Shale gas refers to natural gas found in fine grained sedimentary rock. Extraction requires some type of shock to release the gas. This is usually done by hydraulic fracturing of the rock, creating new channels using a high pressure slurry of water, sand, and chemicals.
There are two types of hydraulic fracturing: low pressure and high pressure. While low pressure hydraulic fracturing requires close attention by local, regional, and state authorities, high pressure extraction processes — which often include both vertical and horizontal drilling — are highly controversial. The extraction of shale gas by high pressure methods has the potential to be highly polluting to water (both ground and surface water) as well as air and land resources.
Many studies have been done on hydraulic fracturing and results are cause for serious concern. A 2011 EPA study found contamination of ground water issues, but findings from this study and others critical of hydraulic fracturing are disputed by the natural gas industry. Research needs to be done to assure the public that extraction methods are safe both locally and downstream of the extraction facilities. Until safety is assured, and to the extent that state legislation allows, local zoning policies should restrict the extraction of shale gas to those methods that have been proved safe for each specific location. APA should also encourage states to regulate shale gas extraction to protect the local environment.
10.0 Transportation Efficiency
Life in the United States and the nation's economy are highly dependent on the personal mobility provided by motor vehicles. As the price of oil rises, individuals, companies, and organizations are spending more of their budgets on gasoline. Moreover, continued dependence on gasoline produced from imported oil contributes to national security concerns.
A wide variety of alternatives for powering vehicles exists and includes:
- Natural gas and liquid fuels domestically produced from natural gas
- Propane (liquefied petroleum gas)
- Blends of 85 percent or more of methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols with gasoline or other fuels
- Methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols
- Coal-derived, domestically produced liquid fuels
- Biomass fuels (other than alcohol) derived from biological materials
- P-series fuels (renewable, non-petroleum based liquid fuels)
The United States has promoted production of some of these with vigor. However, increased research and development of alternative fuels, alternative fuel vehicles, and the accompanying infrastructure to support their use is necessary for their use to become more widespread nationwide. Battery or plug in hybrid electric vehicles, for example, could require home or workplace charging stations — something planners and developers should consider in future plans. Biodiesel will require storage and blending as well as distribution points.
The best alternative is, of course, the wider use of transportation modes other than the car. APA supports the use of walking, bicycling, and public transit of various types and the design of human settlements that allow and encourage these modes of transportation.
11.0 Distributed Energy Generation
As the demand for energy grows, so does the importance of sustainable and reliable energy sources. Economies of scale have led to the proliferation of centralized facilities for electricity generation. However, smaller, more flexible distributed energy systems placed near the point of energy consumption decrease transmission and distribution power losses. These small energy systems sited close to consumer loads are referred to as distributed energy or decentralized generation.
Distributed energy that relies on a diversity of fuels is more resistant to disruption from geopolitical, environmental, and other events and less reliant on foreign resources. However, solar, wind, and some hydro resources depend on natural cycles and the output from these resources can vary over different timescales. For variable renewables, grid management strategies and demand side management are important to ensure the success of the system.
In addition to providing a more flexible system dependent on a larger portion of renewable energy, electricity generation that is sited near consumption instead of in remote locations can make use of the heat that is a byproduct of making electricity. This use of a power station to generate both electricity and useful heat is referred to as co-generation or combined heat and power (CHP). Heated water can then be used to both heat and cool buildings.
12.0 Smart Grid Technology
Smart Grid means "computerizing" the electric utility grid. It includes adding two-way digital communication technology to devices associated with the grid. Each device on the network can be given sensors to gather data (power meters, voltage sensors, fault detectors, etc.), plus two-way digital communication between the device in the field and the utility's network operations center. A key feature of the smart grid is automation technology that lets the utility adjust and control each individual device or millions of devices from a central location.
A smart grid can help successfully manage a more efficient, but also more complex, system that incorporates distributed energy facilities and renewable energy sources. The infrastructure investment of a smart grid allows for data collection which is then used to inform the system and allow it to both anticipate and respond to changes in supply and demand.
13.0 Building Retrofit and Design
The nation's existing building stock presents a significant opportunity for energy savings through energy improvements or "retrofits." This not only achieves greater efficiency and increases a building's life, but eliminates the energy use that would result from demolition and new construction. Retrofitting has the added benefit of supporting historic preservation values when done with sensitivity to the historic integrity of a building. Features such as orientation of the building in relation to natural light and breezes, porches, operable windows and transoms, shutters or louvers, and high ceilings minimize usage of heating and cooling systems. Maintaining and using these features can significantly cut energy use and costs.
Buildings constructed today will achieve greater energy efficiency just from improvements to building code standards over the past few decades; however low- and zero-energy buildings that use appreciably less energy or "net zero" energy are possible and offer a significant opportunity to further reduce energy consumption. Programs such as ENERGY STAR (a joint U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE program that sets standards for energy efficient products and practices) and nonprofit efforts such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, U.S. Green Building Council's internationally recognized green building certification system) are important steps, but standards should be continually assessed and adjusted as improvements in technologies and policies allow for greater efficiency.
Focusing on improving the energy efficiency of existing and new buildings alone is not sufficient; it is equally important to address the barriers that complicate these improvements for building owners in the following areas: affordable financing, market demand through consumer education, market confidence by industry/lenders in the contribution of energy efficiency to the bottom line, and access to a qualified workforce. In addition to these issues, a common set of tools and policies are needed, including benchmarking building energy consumption, rating energy performance based on a common rating system, and retro-commissioning buildings to implement energy improvements.
14.0 Energy Facility Siting
Every locality in America is unique in some manner. Local elected and appointed officials are in the best position to be able to determine how or if energy generation facilities, production, mining, or resource recovery fits within the fabric of their communities. Decisions with respect to siting, aesthetics, environmental concerns, and facilities management are most appropriately made closest to the communities and individuals most directly affected by the decision. For example, communities with historic districts may wish to regulate solar collection panels and wind turbines in a different manner than those communities without designated historic districts. Communities with exceptional scenic vistas may choose differing approaches to siting energy-related facilities. These are inherently local choices that should remain local.
However, as not all impacts are entirely local, citizens and officials within the larger area potentially impacted by a siting decision must be provided with an effective means of influencing the outcome. For example, the air and water emissions from a facility may have greater impacts downwind and downstream than at the source itself; the principle of environmental equity provides that those downwind and downstream communities should be able to provide input and have it considered in the decision process while still providing primacy to local land use authority.
State and federal rules and regulations that entirely preempt local land use authority should be avoided. Such efforts are better directed at developing best practices, enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts without loopholes, model ordinances, and by providing education to local authorities regarding what are and are not reasonable concerns to consider in making siting decisions.
15.0 Research and Development
Public and private investment in energy-related research and development are critical to the innovation required to reduce America's dependence on non-renewable and foreign energy, while also promoting economic development. Because public research and development funding is not adequate, it needs to be spent strategically by focusing on promising technologies that can be scaled up, and concentrating the money in a few research centers rather than taking a scattershot approach. The technologies for which funding is allocated must include both improved conservation and alternative sources because both demand and supply are important to achieving national energy security.
However, in the short term and possibly for the mid-term as well, the United States will remain dependent in significant part on oil, natural gas, and coal for energy generation. Thus at least some research and development funding should focus on more efficient and environmentally benign ways in which to use fossil fuels while development of alternative fuels and sources is ongoing.
16.0 Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The way we produce our energy supplies today has a profound effect on global warming and climate change. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere. This natural warming effect is essential to support life; however, excess atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases shift Earth's equilibrium, adding significant heat to land and oceans. This heating — global warming — sets into motion a cascade of climate change. The principal greenhouse gases of concern are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. In addition to these naturally occurring gases, a variety of man-made gases, including sulfur hexafluoride and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are potent global warming gases. The effect of these gases is measured as global warming potential (GWP) compared to an equal mass of carbon dioxide.
Today, most of the world's energy originates from the burning of fossil fuels. These fossil fuels consist primarily of hydrogen and carbon, and when burned to create energy, the carbon combines with oxygen to create carbon dioxide (CO2), the most prevalent greenhouse gas (excluding water vapor). In the United States, CO2 emissions represented approximately 84 percent of the total 2010 GHG emissions.
The major sources of CO2 emissions are generation of electricity and transportation. Methane (CH4), an important source of energy as natural gas, is another significant greenhouse gas (with a GWP of 20 or more), although it is present in much smaller concentrations than CO2. Methane is emitted from both natural sources and human-induced activities such as leakage from natural gas and petroleum exploitation, animal husbandry (enteric fermentation, manure management), landfills, and coal mining. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is also produced by both natural and human activities. While emissions are much lower than CO2, N2O has a GWP of approximately 300. Agricultural soil management, mobile source fuel combustion and stationary fuel combustion are the major sources of N2O.
Climate change refers to long-term, major changes in land, air, and ocean temperatures, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns. Although these changes result from both human and natural causes, the considerable temperature increases and subsequent impacts seen around the world cannot be explained solely from natural causes, including climate variability. Human activities that add to natural greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere include but are not limited to burning fossil fuels for energy, cutting down trees, generating waste, and development of land. A direct link has been made between this increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in atmospheric temperature. Greenhouse gas emissions have changed climate, not just by increasing temperature, but by increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather.
A reduction in emissions, not simply curbing the growth in emissions, is key in being able to address climate change mitigation. Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased by over 30 percent, from 275 parts per million (ppm) in the early 1700s to about 390 ppm today, with annual increases of about two ppm. Projections of atmospheric CO2 concentration for 2100 range from approximately 550 ppm to over 800 ppm. At the current time, there is no scientific consensus about a "safe" level of atmospheric CO2 concentration, although the generally discussed safe CO2 concentration ranges from 350 ppm to 450 ppm. Unless significant reduction in emissions occurs on an international scale, the upper end of this range will be exceeded in approximately 30 years, underscoring the need for planners to expeditiously pursue effective climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.
Planners can address mitigation on a per capita basis — for example, the transportation sector is responsible for approximately one-third of GHG emissions; compact development patterns and multi-modal transportation strategies play a significant role in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), thus influencing these GHG emissions. Energy efficiency and conservation are important aspects of our buildings — new developments can be evaluated with respect to GHG emissions resulting from their full life-cycle emissions, as well as heating and cooling. We can encourage energy generation from renewable resources, as well as a nationwide carbon cap-and-trade system or carbon tax.
The April 2011 APA Policy Guide on Planning and Climate Change provides a more detailed discussion of this topic.
17.0 The Future of Coal
While coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the United States, coal mining, transport, and combustion pose considerable environmental problems. While energy from coal has historically been applied to a wide range of needs, currently electricity generation accounts for around 90 percent of coal use in the U.S., with about 50 percent of U.S. electricity coming from coal-fired plants. Coal competes in this sector with natural gas, having largely displaced oil after the oil shocks of the 1970s. Coal, to a much lesser extent, is also used by the steel industry.
As coal mining has migrated toward large-scale strip mines and mountain top removal, opposition to mining has become increasingly vocal. Coal combustion has come under increasingly strict environmental controls, including a generally successful implementation of a sulfur dioxide emissions trading regime (cap-and-trade) aimed at reducing acid rain. However, new Source Performance Standard rules promulgated under the Clean Air in 2012 effectively mark the end of new coal-fired generation in the U.S. Despite large federal investments toward the development of a practical technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS), there is no existing coal technology that can meet these new strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions on a commercial scale. Existing coal plants will likely be phased out in the short-term, largely as a result of economic factors (low electricity demand, low natural gas prices, and higher coal prices) and to a lesser extent new mercury emissions rules. Coal's share of generation dropped by nearly 5 percent between 2011 and 2012, now standing at only 39 percent. Natural gas, primarily through use of existing generation facilities, has replaced most of this capacity. As natural gas prices recover, this rate of decline may slow or reverse in the short term. Higher coal prices have been driven both by higher production costs and increased exports of both metallurgical and fuel coal.
18.0 Unconventional Petroleum
Conventional oil is a category of oil that includes crude oil and natural gas liquids and condensate liquids, which are extracted from natural gas production.4 The vast majority of production today and historically has been conventional, albeit using increasingly sophisticated and expensive methods. The most important technical extensions to conventional production have been deep offshore drilling and so-called "enhanced recovery techniques" such as well pressurization and horizontal drilling.
Unconventional oil consists of a wider variety of liquid sources including oil sands, extra heavy oil, gas to liquids, and other liquids.5 This includes the mining of the resource (such as oil shale or tar sands) followed by processing into liquids — generally by heating using enormous quantities of natural gas)
U.S. production of conventional oil reached a peak in the 1970s. Over the last few decades, conventional oil exploration has moved into more technically difficult and expensive fields, including both the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. The lower energy return on investment (EROI) of these resources is reflected in higher crude oil and product prices. While some discoveries of conventional oil including expansion of existing oil fields are still being made, oil industry attention and investment has been shifting to unconventional oil. These fuels are characterized by even lower EROI and frequently result in much higher GHG emissions per delivered unit of energy than conventional sources.
While the U.S. has large shale oil resources (examples are the Green River Formation in Wyoming and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and eastern Montana) our increasing dependence on unconventional petroleum diverts attention away from increasing research on and investment in renewable energy.
The political struggle over the Keystone XL pipeline in 2011-2012 illustrates some of the potential planning implications for increased unconventional oil production. Exploitation of the massive tar sands deposits in Alberta, Canada, is currently limited by pipeline capacity to a few refineries in Canada and the U.S. Midwest. There is high economic and political pressure to expand exports by constructing the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver tar sands oil to Gulf Coast refineries now processing heavy oil from Venezuela, as well as a pipeline through British Columbia for delivery of product to China. Opponents are concerned about local consequences such as oil spills and habitat disruption, as well as global consequences like GHG emissions.
For this and other proposed oil production and transport projects, approval should not be granted absent improvements in both technology and regulatory oversight, including oversight of cleanup from spills.
References and Further Reading
Best Practices in Conservation and Efficiency
Community Energy Planning Best Practices. 2009. http://www.bchydro.com/etc/medialib/internet/documents/power_smart/ sustainable_communities/global_best_practices_model.Par.0001.File. global_best_practices.pdf
Data and Measurement
Washington State Archives. 2011. "How to Set a Baseline Measure." February. http://ow.ly/37QNT
CNT Energy: www.cntenergy.org
Moreland Energy Foundation: www.mefl.com.au
Kane County, Illinois, 2040 Energy Plan: www.countyofkane.org/Pages/ARRA/kc2040ep.aspx
City of Irvine, California, 2008 Energy Plan: www.cityofirvine.us/downloads/Irvine_Energy_Plan.pdf
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2011. "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009." EPA 430-R-11-005. April.
U.S. Green Building Council: https://new.usgbc.org/
First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. "17 Principles of Environmental Justice." www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html
Brooks, Nancy, and Rajiv Sethi. 1997. "The Distribution of Pollution: Community Characteristics and Exposure to Air Toxics." Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Vol. 32, No. 2.
Bullard, Robert D. "Environmental Racism PCB Landfill Finally Remedied But No Reparations for Residents." Environmental Justice Resource Center. 2004. www.ejrc.cau.edu/warren%20county%20rdb.htm
Coalition Against Environmental Racism: http://pages.uoregon.edu/caer/
Community Mitigation Plan, South Carolina: http://lamcnc.org/mitigationplan.htm
State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "Environmental Equity Policy." www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2688&q=322376&depNav_GID=1511
State of Michigan. 2009. "Environmental Justice Plan." www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/envjustplan_304917_7.pdf
Levine, Adeline. 1982. Love Canal: Science, Politics, and People. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books.
The Port of Long Beach Clean Trucks Program: www.polb.com/environment/cleantrucks/default.asp
The Sierra Club: www.sierraclub.org/ej/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Plan EJ 2014: www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/plan-ej/index.html
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Justice Assessment Tool: www.epa.gov/compliance/ej/resources/policy/ej-seat.html
United Church of Christ, Commission for Racial Justice. 1987. "Toxic wastes and race in the United States: a national report on the racial and socio-economic characteristics of communities with hazardous waste sites."
Education and Consultation
Designing a Community Energy Program: www.smartcommunities.ncat.org/municipal/mundesign.shtml
Sustainable Communities Online: www.sustainable.org/
Rocky Mountain Institute, Reinventing Fire: www.rmi.org/ReinventingFire
National Commission on Energy Policy. 2006. "Siting Critical Energy Infrastructure: An Overview of Needs and Challenges." http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/report/siting-critical-energy-infrastructure-overview-needs-and-challenges
Re-Powering America's Land: www.epa.gov/oswercpa/mapping_tool.htm
Salkin, P. 2010. "Renewable Energy and Land Use Regulation," ALI-ABA Business Law Course Materials. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1588766
For discussion of solar parks, see Clinton Climate Initiative: www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-initiative/clinton-climate-initiative/programs/clean-energy.html
For a discussion of geothermal, see H. Thorsteinsson and J. Tester. 2010. "Barriers and Enablers to Geothermal District Heating System Development in the United States," Energy Policy, 38, 803-813.
Rocky Mountain Institute, Electricity: http://www.rmi.org/Electricity
Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program: https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/lwr_sustainability_program/ 442/introduction
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: www.wipp.energy.gov/
The Nuclear Renaissance: www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf104.html
Is Nuclear Energy a Possible Solution to Global Warming?: www.ceem.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/ NukesSocialAlternativesMD.pdf
"Nuclear energy: assessing the emissions": www.nature.com/climate/2008/0810/pdf/climate.2008.99.pdf
"Nuclear power: the dream that failed": www.economist.com/node/21549936
Hughes, David. 2011. "Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?" Post Carbon Institute. http://www.postcarbon.org/report/331901-will-natural-gas-fuel-america-in
Inman, Mason. 2012. "Estimates Clash for How Much Natural Gas in the United States." http://news.nationalgeographic.com/energy/2012/03/120301-natural-gas-reserves-united-states/
Sierra Club. "Beyond Natural Gas." http://content.sierraclub.org/naturalgas
U.S. Energy Information Administration: Natural Gas: www.eia.gov/naturalgas/
Plunkett Research. "Industry List, Automobile Industry, Trends Overview." www.plunkettresearch.com/automobiles-trucks-market-research/industry-overview.
Sousanis, John. "World Vehicle Population Tops 1 Billion Units." News & Analysis content from Wards Auto. http://wardsauto.com/ar/world_vehicle_population_110815/
U.S. Department of Energy. "Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center: Alternative and Advanced Vehicles." www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/index.html.
"Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center: Alternative and Advanced Fuels." www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/index.html
U.S. Department of Energy. Flexible Fuel Vehicles: Providing a Renewable Fuel Choice (Clean Cities, 2008).
Cambridge Concord Associates. 2011. "U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Five-Year Strategic Plan: Reducing Petroleum Dependence in On-Road Transportation in the United States." January. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/pdfs/strategic_plan.pdf
Rocky Mountain Institute: Transportation: www.rmi.org/transportation
Transport Revolutions: http://transportrevolutions.info/
Distributed Energy Generation
"Biofuels: Opportunities and Constraints to Community Energy Generation": www.centerforsocialinclusion.org/publications/biofuels-opportunities-and-constraints-to-community-energy-generation/
"Contribution of Renewables to Energy Security": www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/name,3713,en.html
Distributed Energy Basics: www.nrel.gov/learning/eds_distributed_energy.html
"A Model of U.S. Commercial Distributed Generation Adoption": http://der.lbl.gov/publications/model-us-commercial-distributed-generation-adoption
World Alliance for Decentralized Energy: www.localpower.org
Energy Future Coalition: www.energyfuturecoalition.org
Electric Power Research Institute, Smart Grid Resource Center: http://smartgrid.epri.com
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners: www.naruc.org/SmartGrid/
Smart Grid Technology
Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability: http://energy.gov/oe/technology-development/smart-grid
Environmental Defense Fund: Smart Grid: Revolutionizing our energy future: www.edf.org/energy/smart-grid-overview?s_src=ggad_smartgrid&gclid=CIjD6u7sxLECFeUBQAodCWMA9Q
Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse: www.sgiclearinghouse.org/
Building Design and Retrofit
Pike Research. "Energy Efficiency Retrofits for Commercial and Public Buildings." www.srmnetwork.com/pdf/whitepapers/Energy_Efficiency_Retrofits_Jul10.pdf
Pike Research. "Energy Efficient Homes." www.pikeresearch.com/research/energy-efficient-homes
Nation's First Green Building Program Celebrates 20 Years: https://my.austinenergy.com/wps/portal/aegb/aegb/home/!ut/p/c5/
Built Green: www.builtgreen.org/
Energy Facility Siting
Sierra Club Conservation Policies — Energy Facility Siting: www.sierraclub.org/policy/conservation/energyfac.aspx
U.S. EPA. "Handbook on Siting Renewable Energy Projects While Addressing Environmental Concerns." www.epa.gov/oswercpa/docs/handbook_siting_repowering_projects.pdf
Rynne, AICP, Suzanne; Larry Flowers; Eric Lantz; and Erica Heller, AICP (eds.). 2011. Planning for Wind Energy. Planning Advisory Service Report no. 566. Chicago: American Planning Association.
Planning for Wind Energy Resource List: www.planning.org/research/wind/
Planning and Zoning for Solar Energy. Planning Advisory Service Essential Info Packet no. 30. www.planning.org/pas/infopackets/eip30.htm
Research and Development
U.S. Department of Energy, Renewable Energy: http://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/renewable-energy
U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Energy: http://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/nuclear
U.S. Department of Energy, Fossil: http://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/fossil
U.S. Department of Energy, Electricity: http://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/electricity
1. The American Planning Association comprises 47 chapters representing states and regions, 21 divisions covering special interest areas and populations, students in collegiate schools of planning, and a professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).