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Community Energy Plan

Updated on December 31, 2011

In order for communities to design a more efficient and sustainable use of energy a Community Energy Plan should be created. This plan is a way for reviewing and evaluating the use of energy consumption in an urban setting (Oregon Department of Energy, 2008). The goal of a Community Energy Plan is to help communities maintain long-term energy and resource planning. The plan also helps conserve energy and use energy more efficiently. There are three energy plans communities can use to conserve natural resources: the use of renewable energy sources, changes in building structure, and changes in transportation.

Renewable Energy

Many local governments can use renewable energy sources as a part of their energy plan. The goal of renewable energy is to reduce dependence on fuels that release carbon, create new jobs for the local community, and reduce energy cost to families and businesses. Producing renewable energy affects everyone within a community. One study showed that, “Wind and solar energy are produced domestically and increase the diversity of the nation's electricity sources, which promotes energy independence, national security, and domestic economic growth (Marquis, Wilczak, Ahlstrom, Sharp, Stern, Smith, & Calvert, 2011).

There are five renewable sources of energy that local communities can use:

1. The Sun. The sun is a constant natural source of heat and light, and its radiation can be converted to electricity.

2. The Wind. Today the technology exists to build wind turbines that can produce large amounts of electricity. There are many natural climate and geographical locations to produce constant winds to power the turbines.

3. Water. Modern hydro-turbines use water power to generate electricity. Turbines can be built in natural water flow areas, from dams, and ocean currents.

4. Biomass. This is the organic matter on the earth. Biomass is used to make heat, electricity, and liquid fuels. It can come from crops grown for energy use, animal waste, and earthly debris such as grass clippings.

5. The Earth. Geothermal energy can be used for heating buildings. Areas where geothermal is hot can be used to generate electricity.

Issues that must be overcome in order to ensure effectiveness is using the right balance of renewable energy. Some places have little wind or water, and solar power would not be as effective in rainy areas. It is up to key planners, such as the governing body of a community and the collective members of the locality in local communities, to determine what source of energy would best fit the community. Some essential groups in the planning process are the city council, bureau heads, citizen advisory groups, infrastructure providers, and utilities or a public utility commission.

Changes in Building Structure

City planners can reduce energy cost and usage by putting in a building structure plan. According to Levy (2011) the building structure plan can be a part of the communities’ land-use plan; this is developing the most efficient energy to design a community. For example clustering houses together or in a row reduces energy used in heating, and is a better protection from the wind than houses that stand alone.

Another important part of the plan is to retrofit available technology, but this is difficult for communities to accomplish. For example large-scale changes to infrastructure can be extremely costly, so simple steps such as weatherization, conservation, and use energy efficient devices such as compact fluorescent lamps will help. Compact fluorescent lamps use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.

Goals of a building structure plan is to understand and implement design strategies that will increase energy efficiently and function of a community’s buildings. Another goal is to ensure how buildings interact with other structures within the community. It is also important to incorporate renewable energy technologies.

According to Marique & Reiter (2010), “Urban sprawl represents a significant contribution to the overall energy consumption of a territory for energy needs in buildings and for transport” (p.1). Urban sprawl is the unplanned and uncontrolled spreading of urban development into areas adjoining the edge of a city. It is the cities responsibility to provide an interactive assessment tool dedicated to building performance. The tool should be designed to help public cities and developers plan more efficient housing and buildings and improve energy efficiency in existing neighborhoods. It should also help identify practical strategies to reduce energy consumption.

Within United States, buildings are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, and 13% water consumption. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) was developed and promoted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to identify and implement practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions; this includes implementing water, energy, and atmosphere efficiency; changing materials, resources, and design used; and improving indoor environmental quality and innovation (Levy 2011). The USGBC works with local neighborhood development committees to reach the goal of building efficiency.

Changes in Transportation

One of the biggest goals of community today is trying to reduce the carbon emissions from fossil fuels; therefore communities are working on a new transportation plan. One plan is called Green your Fleets. This plan includes downsizing vehicles. Cities should use trucks only if necessary to carry the needed load, and every municipality should use the smallest functional vehicle possible. Part of this plan includes using hybrids or flex-fuel vehicles and trying plug-in hybrids or other new low emissions vehicles.

There are many other plans the cities can use to lower carbon emissions. Plans could include incentives for car pools, greener busses, in even improvements to walking and bike paths. The cities of Little Rock, Arkansas and Lafayette, Indiana have reinstated trolley systems because they themselves do not release carbon.

One key player in the new transportation plan is President Obama. He has passed a bill that requires vehicles by 2016 to get an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. This bill should produce a drop in vehicles' carbon emissions by 30 percent. It is also estimated that businesses that operate and own commercial vehicles will save $50 billion in fuel costs. Part of his plan also includes that the car have an alarm when tire pressure is low because low tire pressure effects gas mileage.

One of the key problems in this plan is cost. It is extremely expensive for cities to install a trolley system, even though over time they do pay for themselves. There are just no funds available to start such a large project. There is the same problem with hybrids or flex-fuel vehicles. They cost 20 to 40 percent more than standard vehicles. With electric vehicles being so new, their cost is very high and their reliability is low.


It is important for communities to identify opportunities for improvement of energy efficiency and conservation. This includes redeveloping how cities support transportation and the planning for energy smart buildings. Cities should also increase the use of clean and renewable energy sources. To do that every city, town, and state must have a Community Energy Plan. This will help reduce energy consumption for future generations.


Levy, J. (2011), Contemporary urban planning, 9th edition. Pearson Learning Solutions NY.

Marique F., & Reiter S. (2010), Improving energy efficiency of existing suburban areas through district energy planning, Local Environment: Management & Analysis (LEMA), University of Liège, Belgium

Marquis, M, Wilczak, J., Ahlstrom, M., Sharp, J., Stern, A., Smith, J., & Calvert, S.. (2011). Forecasting the wind to reach significant penetration levels of wind energy. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 92(9), 1159-1171. Retrieved November 11, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2498467931).

Oregon Department of Energy (2008) Community energy planning tool 625 Marion St NE, Salem, OR 97301 retrieved from:


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