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Understanding the Role of Land Use and Urban Form in the Energy Efficiency and Decarbonization of Silicon Valley’s Urban Energy Systems

In order to achieve California’s aggressive 2050 GHG goals, there is a need for an additional 61-74% reduction in GHG emissions below forecasted 2030 levels. Buildings in California are responsible for a quarter of total emissions, making urban energy efficiency and decarbonization of the built environment a critical lever to achieve the state’s GHG goals.

Two emergent and disruptive energy trends have direct implications for how energy efficiency is understood in cities – (1) the integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar energy and battery storage into the built environment, and (2) the rise of electric mobility which interacts with the built environment and potentially acts as “mobile batteries” for peak load management. These trends necessitate a better understanding of the balance between in-boundary and out-boundary urban energy flows as well as the techno-economic feasibility of urban energy self-sufficiency. At the same time, the land use patterns of our cities have profound impacts on energy use in buildings and transportation, and will thus influence the integration of DERs and electric vehicles into the grid.

This project will address these gaps in understanding through the development of a novel efficiency framework and benchmarking protocol for urban energy efficiency, offering ways to compare the performance of SVCE’s thirteen communities in the clean energy transition. In addition, understanding the relationship between land use change and energy efficiency can allow SVCE to partner with its communities to offer pathways to decarbonization through land use and zoning regulations.