Study: Urban planning can reduce city’s energy usage by 25%

Des Moines is the most populous city in Iowa with 203,433 residents according to the 2010 Census (Jason Mrachina/Flickr)
Des Moines is the most populous city in Iowa with 203,433 residents according to the 2010 Census (Jason Mrachina/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | January 30, 2015

A study released earlier this month found that efficient urban planning and more emphasis on public transportation can help cities to reduce energy usage by about 25 percent.

The study – which was conducted by researchers from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Yale University, and the University of Maryland – examined 274 cities around the globe and concluded that if sustainable development and infrastructure is not implemented, the world’s energy usage will triple by 2050. Sustainable development is most important in the Middle East, China, and Africa where populations are expected to rise at the fastest rate.

The researchers also pointed to findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which found that cities consume 76 percent of the world’s energy and are responsible for approximately three-quarters of global CO2 emissions.

The study’s authors conclude:

“The results show that, for affluent and mature cities, higher gasoline prices combined with compact urban form can result in savings in both residential and transport energy use. In contrast, for developing-country cities with emerging or nascent infrastructures, compact urban form, and transport planning can encourage higher population densities and subsequently avoid lock-in of high carbon emission patterns for travel. The results underscore a significant potential urbanization wedge for reducing energy use in rapidly urbanizing Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”

According to the 2010 Census more than 80 percent of the U.S. population live in urban areas while more than half of the world population lives in cities, a number that is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050.


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