Citizens Guide: What is "Sustainable Energy?"

Citizens Guide to Sustainable Energy

What is "sustainable energy?"

The idea of "sustainable energy" implies moving beyond the current system of energy production and consumption to one sustaining human and ecological health. This concept emphasizes not causing harm, highlighting social and environmental priorities. [See What is sustainability?]

A somewhat different interpretation of "sustainable energy" focuses less on the environmental and social impacts but on on sustaining the ability to continue to produce and consume energy. This approach tends to highlight economic priorities.Nature provides the best examples of energy efficiency, e.g., photosynthesis.Both approaches regard "alternative" energy sources and practices, particularly "renewable" sources, as increasingly essential to our future security and quality of life.Among these alternatives are solar, wind, small-scale hydro, geothermal, biomass, and other methods. However, each of these approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses, especially depending on the physical location of the communites doing the producing and consuming. What works for one community does not always work for others. Also there are questions of scale, cost, need, capacity and other concerns.This Guide does not attempt to answer all the questions or pretend to solve all the problems involved with energy production and consumptionand its impacts. It does, however, attempt to provide a tool for citizens concerned with this issue and trying to better inform themselves and others about this issue.

Stats, perspectives and practices:

wikipedia on "sustainable energy" 

Science Magazine - Special issue on "Sustainability and Energy," 9 Feb. 2007. 

2nd International Conference on Energy Sustainability - Organized jointly by the ASME International Solar Energy Division (SED) and Advanced Energy Systems Division (AESD). Held in August 2008. 

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Symposium 2008, organized by Green Tech News, Nov. 5-6, 2008 in Atlanta, GA. 

Sustainability and Energy Expo 2009 - Organized by Pima Association of Governments (March 6-7, 2009 in Tucson, AZ). 

Maxwell School - US energy consumption since World War II

Center for Sustainable Systems, Univ. of Michigan - Energy resources: production & consumption [PPT]

Solar Energy International - Energy consumption and other facts 

Sustainable Energy Coalition - brings together more than 60 national and state-level business, environmental, consumer, and energy policy organizations.   Founded in 1992, the Coalition promotes increased federal support for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and reduced federal support for unsafe or polluting energy resources.

International Sustainable Energy Agency - Proposed model statute [pdf]. Definition of SE as "energy which, in its production or consumption, has minimal negative impacts on human health and the healthy functioning of vital ecological systems, including the global environment, and that can be supplied continuously to future generations on earth." 

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act - an act of the British Parliament aiming to increase the number of heat and electricity microgeneration installations in the United Kingdom, hoping to reduce both carbon emissions and poverty. 

Energy Globe Awards for Sustainability - International environmental prize showcasing projects conserving and protecting resources or the employ renewable energy. 

Institute for Sustainable Energy - Focus on practical applications and dissemination of information about how to improve the energy profile and sustainability of Connecticut and the region. 

Northeast Sustainable Energy Association - "the Northeast's leading organization of professionals working in sustainable energy, whole-systems thinking and green technologies. NESEA advances the adoption and practical application of sustainable, low carbon energy practices."

International Academy Council - "Energy Sustainability and Security." 

Brooks Energy and Sustainability Lab (BESL) - Consortium of professionals fro Texas Engineering Experiment Station and Georgia Tech Research Institute. "Providing technology transfer services in the areas of energy and sustainability at all levels of government and private industry." 

StatoilHydro sustainability reports - Norwegian oil company's views on sustainable energy 

Energy Information Administration - Households, buildings, vehicles and industries 

US Dept of Energy - US energy statistics; national and states 

National Energy Foundation - Fuel consumption stats 

Solcomhouse - Current (2007) US energy policy and stats

US Geological Survey - Energy Resources Program - USGS research and data " used to shape policies regarding domestic and foreign energy resources and to manage energy resources on Federal lands."


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Energy and Climate Change

In the United States, as in other parts of the world, citizens are increasingly concerned about the threats to our future posed by climate change and our addiction to fossil fuels. In turn, many US citizens recognize the need to take responsibility for ourselves and our country in transforming the ways we produce and consume energy -- in our households, communities, regions and nation.