Sustainable Urban Energy

Cities are engines of economic growth. On an average they are responsible for more than 75 per cent of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The world’s total population is close to 7 billion today, with half living in urban centres, and expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050 (Doman 2009). Asian cities will double in size over the next 20 years, adding more than 40 million each year. Hence the 21st century will undoubtedly be the century of urban development for Asia. The challenge for Asia will be to provide the basic amenities such as food, water and shelter, transportation, education and sanitation for its urban and rural population, without disturbing the ecological balance. Cities are voracious resource consumers, and as cities grow, their consumption also follows suit, absorbing more resources and increasing the ecological footprint. Cities need an uninterrupted supply of energy to fuel their activities, and this is currently being met predominantly by fossil fuels. However, fossils fuels are finite; their availability is under question, with harmful effects on the environment.

The way forward is likely to be an alternative development model that is not carbon intensive, one that is economically and socially inclusive, and focuses on the well-being of the population. A systematic understanding of today’s energy consumption and production systems will provide us with some insights on how to achieve this. Various initiatives in Asia and around the world can be replicated, adapted and scaled up by municipal authorities.

This Sourcebook addresses sustainable energy solutions from a system’s perspective, as a three-step process - energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy conservation asks the question, “do we need to consume a given good/service?” Energy efficiency asks, “what would be the best possible way to consume the same good/service”, while renewable energy asks, “could there be sustainable renewable energy alternatives for fossil fuels”.

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