In order to meet the challenge of a sustainable mixed-use community, the community plan must address how to integrate and balance the energy demands of the occupants. The first step in sustainable infrastructure design begins by planning for the most energy efficient, climate change adaptable and technologically viable arrangement of buildings that can distribute power and energy generation within their own footprints.


Currently, the dominant model for power generation and energy distribution is to concentrate services in one geographic area and link to far away users with supply conduits. According to the National Energy Board (2019), in Alberta, about 89% of electricity is produced from fossil fuels (50% coal and 39% natural gas). The World Coal Association (2019) reports that the average global efficiency rate of coal-fired power plants is in the range of 30%. This means that for 100 units of coal energy, only 30 units are converted into electricity while rest 70% are wasted in generation, distribution and transmission losses.


Distributed power generation and energy delivery is commonly used to meet the energy demands of urban infrastructure. This means that urban infrastructure is fed from existing power and gas grids, but ties in with small loads spread out more evenly and located directly in population centers.


Achieving Sustainable Infrastructure

One way to achieve a sustainable infrastructure and energy economy over the long term is to promote micro-scale generation for electricity and energy sharing within communities and respond to thermal demand effectively. Energy sharing aims to enlarge the usage of unused energy effectively with an increase in the potential of energy utilization that will be wasted otherwise. For example, heat generated by refrigerators in the retail, instead of being rejected to the atmosphere, can be used to heat the greenhouse.


For Alberta to respond to changing emission regulations, climate change challenges, economic and environmental needs, reconsideration is needed in the way in which we plan our developments to produce and use power and energy.


The first step towards sustainable infrastructure is to develop individual buildings to improve efficiency and increase knowledge of how to change design and development practices to be more energy efficient.


The next step is to integrate these efficient buildings into an urban plan that can balance energy loads between buildings by generating power and sharing thermal energy on-site instead of discharging the waste heat to the atmosphere.


Such a strategy can help urban planners to move away from the present model of producing power and energy in large clusters far removed from end users. Having an on-site generation of electricity and using waste heat on the site by sharing within the community has the potential to greatly reduce the energy footprint on a community and can achieve a substantial reduction in the dependence on utility grids.


An additional benefit of this approach is in the social dimension, by empowering communities to promote sustainability and environmental stewardship. Communities benefit by having greater control over how their choices for using energy affects the quality of life and the local environment. Utility companies also benefit from community energy sharing technologies by requiring less backup capacity to deal with the load fluctuations.


An urban development can effectively plan to balance large and smaller loads so that daily variability in consumption can be shared, with electrical and heating loads balancing the energy demand of a community.


-Ali Syed


About Ali Syed

Ali is a trainer in CIET's Certified Energy Manager course. He has more than 17 years of diverse experience in Energy Conservation, Renewable Energy Systems, Energy Performance Contracting, Energy Management and Sustainability. Ali is working as a Technical Lead overseeing entire LEED, BOMA, Green Globes, Built Green Facilitation & Energy Modeling, HVAC System sizing, Energy Auditing, Life-Cycle Costing Assessment, Measurement & Verification and some Commissioning work for the Alberta Government. Ali is also a CaGBC Experienced Energy Modeller, LEED AP, Green Globes Professional (GGP), Certified Energy Manager (CEM) and Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP).  


Throughout his career, Ali has conducted numerous Energy Audits ranging from commercial, healthcare, educational, residential and heavy industrial clients across North America and Asia. He actively speaks at international energy conferences and symposia and teach numerous courses in energy conservation across North America. Finally, Ali has published more than a dozen peer-reviewed articles on energy conservation globally and he demonstrates in-depth knowledge and understanding of project management tools & methodologies, as well as instruments and processes related to project preparation & implementation, resource management, and stakeholder communications.



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