Whether evaluating from a global or local perspective, there are several different roads to determine energy sufficiency and adjust to meet its limits. An energy sufficiency analysis typically focuses on evaluating the need rather than the supply. Reduction, substitution, and adjustment are the three fundamental ways we can reduce our consumption. The market can foster changes in these areas, particularly if individuals are given the knowledge needed to place greater value on using sustainably sourced energy. Federal and state energy policy may be needed to disincentivize wasteful uses, or better equip efficiency solution providers to compete. With an efficient infrastructure designed for scalable solutions, the NewVistas model enables one tenth of our normal energy use without compromising the community's quality of life, and without relying on subsidies. With this level of reduction among individuals and their organizations, we should have an indefinite supply regardless of substantially increasing populations.
Issues and Questions
How much energy will we will want?
This exploration of energy sufficiency assumes the goal is to strive to provide individuals and organizations with as much affordable energy as they require to fulfill their daily and lifelong goals. This means limiting or avoiding waste on energy uses that have an attenuated connection to our personal or collective development.
With improved community infrastructure and collaborative systems, it becomes easier to share resources more easily, and eliminate waste. Sustainable consumption levels can be reached without compromising quality of life. We can’t rely on the entire world becoming as efficient as the 1/10 consumption NewVistas model, but there has to be significant worldwide efficiency efforts cutting more than half our current usage. Any energy policy should assume significant conservation efforts are forthcoming as no energy plan is sustainable without them.
Factors to consider...
Determining sufficiency for any community requires estimating not only how much energy we will need, but when we'll need it, and what type we'll need. What uses can be carried out at night to spread the demand? How many residents in a given area would be willing to cooperatively source energy?
It also requires determining what is available, when, and where. Will the light or wind in a region be sufficient for renewables in foreseeable future? How is the affordability of different energy sources affected by the density of the community?
If the objective is limit the use of different energy sources for future generations, we must also decide what those upper limits are? How long will the materials needed to build wind and solar technology be available? How fast does natural gas reform in the earth, and what factors affect that?
Given its density and infrastructure, a NewVistas should be able to use a fraction of the natural gas we use today and meet all of its high-grade energy needs. As most land would be reserved for agriculture, a NewVistas would rely on solar power primarily for photosynthesis, and thermal heat. Each community's governance process will be structured to ensure it continually explores new energy solutions.
1. Make progress identifying and representing the most difficult questions about our energy needs.
2. Show definite improvements and progress in the field.
3. Apply these findings to NewVistas.
4. Address the constraints of energy sufficiency models.
5. Create forms that serve as tools for making better energy sufficiency choices.