Premise and Scope of this Book

This book is a selective compilation of working concepts, technological directions and country-specific organizational perspectives - aspects that promise to yield a better systems-based understanding of policy frameworks and action agendas. The book features basic and advanced, practical and principled thought, across technology, carbon emissions methods, community engagement strategies and various urban renewable energy and efficiency implementation techniques. The aim is to show everyday energy transitional practice to be distinct from, and yet intimately linked to, the various established realms of the conventionally powered urban development culture. The book also focuses on urban aspects of efficiency gains in embodied, supplied and end-use energy - not only because of the near-term scarcity of renewable power, but also in order to help make its widespread introduction both affordable and achievable. And finally, the book attempts a global - or at least cross-cultural - perspective, examining dimensions of universal interest.

The unfolding transition spawns a new field of discourse. Informed by the dynamic forces of a global urban energy shifts, it is beginning to take shape across loosely shared clusters of discourse, policy patterns and related subgenres of technological innovation, social action research and critical writing. Many disciplines are linked - as diverse as economics, community development, architecture and urban design, transport planning, energy policy, renewable and efficiency technology - to name but a few. The transformation of the very energy base of cities is the focus of a growing research, practice and policy activities - in transport, better building design, higher levels of employment, more meaningful cultural development and other means of strengthening local livelihood.

The techniques and dynamics that characterize this change have moved onto the stages of public policy and civic action. They articulate a nexus of not always resolved or even clearly-defined issues, yet usefully linking concerns that for too long have been thriving in splendid sectoral isolation. This segregation has been nurtured during a hundred years of growing separation between energy issues and virtually all other urban service dimensions: energy systems and their supply industries, support businesses, finance arrangements and regulatory controls on the one hand and the worlds of urban planning and design, transport infrastructure, building construction, property development and civic life in general on the other. In urban-energy-based efforts across the world, community development, health and prosperity objectives loom large. In the not-too-distant past urban communities and civil society were insulated from energy questions, sheltered by the now failing model. Periodic crisis-triggered moments of alertness aside: to the majority of its citizens cities appeared as supplied by a technologically obscure, remote, seemingly limitless and efficient, and low risk set of sources - when ignoring petrol price hikes, air smog alerts and the occasional nuclear plant scare. At the same time, beneath the perfect fa├žade, powerful industrial and political forces engineered the transition from a low emission to a high pollution society, in the name of progress for all. And this transition was packaged in enticing visions of an improbably yet sincerely promised future, a future based on limitless growth, infinite fossil and mineral resource streams and an endless capacity to pollute with impunity. The great, much-heralded globalization project of the late twentieth century is founded on this very illusion.

The book sets out to explore urban agenda horizons at this point in time, in the years of the Peak, identified by critical expert organizations as 2006 and 2010, respectively, as the apex of the global oil production and consumption wave (Campbell 2005, Schindler and Zittel 2007). The aim of this exploration is to identify key domains and features of the policy and practice landscape that serves as the very setting for this historical phenomenon. The background to this book is not only on the transformation of the well-established energy base of contemporary urban systems, but also on the impending end of the most fundamental drivers of modern cities: the great fossil fuel revolution of the past century. The book affords glimpses into key areas of this transformation, and gives voice to an eclectic chorus, composed of veteran policy experts in this transformation; visionary innovators; and a large cohort of other new and devoted actors and agents of change, working on the ground, in local governments, laboratories, consultancies, across countries and world regions at various levels of development.

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