Energy 101

Energy 101

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Today, local governments have a growing role in the decision-making process related to their energy systems. These municipal systems include both sources of energy supply (utility plants, generators, etc) and sources of energy demand (transportation systems, buildings, etc).

Environmentally-friendly municipal energy strategies require balancing the need for i) appropriate selection of energy sources based on a hierarchy of sustainable practices, ii) increased decentralization of the local energy grid, iii) affordable pricing based on full-cost accounting methods, and iv) lessening the vulnerability of communities that are overly-dependent on a single energy source.

Traditional Approaches provides a brief overview of the elements of energy supply and energy demand:

  1. Transportation Fuel Supply
  2. Electricity Supply
  3. Transportation Energy Demand
  4. Buildings Energy Demand
  5. Industrial Buildings Energy Demand

Environmental Challenges associated with associated with energy include:

  1. Global Warming
  2. Air Pollution
  3. Acid Rain
  4. Water Pollution
  5. Spills and Leakages
  6. Price and Supply

Sustainability Principles associated with energy include:

  1. Energy Reduction and Efficiency
  2. Incorporate Renewable Energy Sources
  3. Localize Energy Production
  4. Capture and Reuse Wasted Energy
  5. Share Knowledge

Sustainable Strategies describes four approaches to greening energy sources and use:

  1. Energy Resource Priorities
  2. Distributed Energy Resources
  3. Affordability and Life-cycle costs
  4. Energy Security


Local governments that are committed to reducing their energy use and the resulting carbon footprint must develop strategies that target both energy supply sources and demand management.

Historically, local governments have not played a significant role in energy supply. Electricity production is frequently provided through utilities that serve several jurisdictions and over whose decisions local governments have had little influence. Even in those instances where a city owns a utility, the power plant itself is often developed in partnership with other larger private utility companies.

However, local governments are increasingly playing a larger role in energy supply as smaller scale energy resources, such as onsite renewable energy generation, become more readily available and affordable. In addition, local governments are themselves significant users of energy and as a major utility customer can negotiate with their utility providers to increase production through renewable sources.  

Further, local governments play a significant role in shaping energy demand patterns through programs and policies that affect energy use within their jurisdictions. Cities have passed legislation and policies that mandate or incentivize energy efficiency in buildings, and in transit and transportation modes. There is also much that a municipality can do to reduce energy usage within government operations and thus to realize significant savings in annual energy costs.


Energy consumption around the world is growing at a phenomenal rate. The Energy Information Administration - the statistical agency of the United States Department of Energy - predicts that today's international policies and practices will lead to a 44 percent increase in global energy use by 2030 (see Figure 1).  Currently, the primary sources of energy are petroleum (oil), natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy. Natural gas and coal account for the largest share of total world electricity generation, supplying more than 60 percent. They are forecasted to remain the world's most important resources in 2030.