• The Energy Explorer Tool: Community Energy in Context
    The Energy Explorer
    An Illustrative Online Tool for Community Energy
Thursday, 04 June 2015 00:00

The Energy Explorer Tool: Community Energy in Context

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Developed by the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP), the Energy Explorer is an interactive online tool that maps energy usage and distribution throughout Metro Vancouver. 

This web-resource aims to educate citizens on renewable energy options as well as energy conservation measures, stimulating discussion about the energy choices that communities are faced with today. Managing energy at the community scale can promote more sustainable and secure energy futures, while reducing carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

On the website homepage, users are invited to explore the idea of community energy, defined as an area-based approach to energy planning that models energy needs for existing and future development at the local level. The objective is to integrate energy considerations (including the energy components in water, solid waste and also transportation choices) into land use planning processes, and seize opportunities for resiliency, conservation and peak demand reduction.

The tool provides an overview of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change, the energy demand for Metro Vancouver and the kinds of energy used within the city. Building on the idea of community energy, the tool also suggests numerous localized mitigation strategies, such as housing and design retrofits and utilizing district energy facilities.

The website supplies an inventory of the potential capacity of select renewable energy sources across the Metro Vancouver region, and describes issues arising from the associated technologies. Included in this list are solar, wind, hydropower, heat recovery and bioenergy- all with their accompanying benefits and challenges.

The highlight of the website, however, comes from the two detailed mapping tools, which provide users with a visual, birds-eye view of Metro Vancouver's current energy use and its potential for renewable energy use in the future. The Home Energy Map provides a visualization of current energy use by Metro Vancouver households. Building footprints are colored on the map to show the user's estimated energy usage based on the age of the building and its size. Vancouver citizens are then able to use the map to see how much energy they use and compare it to the estimated energy usage of their neighbors.

The Renewable Energy Map provides a visualization of the energy potential of different types of renewable resources in the region. The map includes layers, as to explore the potential for solar power, wind energy, hydro power and heat recovery. Each of the map layers also allows users to select individual districts on the map to view the current energy demand in each area.

The development of the Energy Explorer tool will give residents the ability to visualize and discuss the issues of energy in their neighbourhoods. The tool effectively demonstrates how communities can save money, reduce emissions, and improve livability by considering energy use, efficiency, and renewable energy in decisions about land use, transportation, buildings, and infrastructure.

Click here
 to test out the Energy Explorer for yourself!