California Energy Commission: Smart Growth & Land Use Planning
Decisions affecting land use directly affect energy use and the consequent production of greenhouse gases, primarily because of the strong relationship between where we live and work and our transportation needs. Significant efforts are necessary to reduce vehicle miles traveled to meet the state's emission reduction goals. California must begin reversing the current 2 percent annual growth rate of vehicle miles traveled. Research shows that increasing a community's density and its accessibility to job centers are the two most significant factors for reducing vehicle miles traveled.
Housing, transportation planning, and local greenhouse gas reductions require local and regional approaches. California's metropolitan planning organizations are involved in long-range planning efforts to develop transportation plans that incorporate improved land use decisions. These plans are expected to reduce energy and climate impacts in metropolitan regions. The state-sponsored Blueprint Planning Program has engaged nearly all of the state's metropolitan planning organizations in a long-range planning effort that will result in plans to coordinate land use and transportation development. The plans accommodate housing needs, reduce the rate of growth of vehicle miles traveled, and identify priority-planning areas. They are in early stages of implementation and may require technical, financial, and regulatory assistance to achieve their goals.
While the state has limited land use authority, it does have some key leverage points (California Environmental Quality Act, housing elements, bond funding, and others) that it can use to assist local governments in reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions that result from land use planning choices. In addition, the state can provide local governments with tools and technical assistance to help meet greenhouse gas emission goals.
The Governor's Strategic Growth Infrastructure Bond package represents an opportunity to influence the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of communities through project funding criteria. Utilities are playing a small but growing role in collaborative planning efforts with local governments. The potential for mutual benefit from planning efforts between these groups is great, but may require regulatory support to achieve.
The body of research on the impact of land use on energy and climate is receiving significantly more attention with the growing interest in climate change. The Energy Commission is dedicating additional resources to studying opportunities and barriers to integrated energy and land use planning.
The Energy Commission supports the adoption of efficient and effective land use planning and recommends that the state:
- Adopt a unified statewide growth management plan, based on local and regional plans, aligning state planning, financing, infrastructure, and regulatory land use policies and programs.
- Require regional transportation planning and air quality agencies to adopt 25-year and 50-year regional growth plans that provide housing, transportation, and community services for projected population increases while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to state-determined climate change targets.
- Expand efforts to provide technical and financial assistance to regional agencies and local governments to facilitate climate-friendly and energy-efficient planning and development.
- Model climate-friendly and energy-efficient development patterns.
- Determine the extent to which state and local tax policies affect and guide land use practices and revise policies that encourage growth that is inconsistent with the state's growth management plan.
- Direct California's utilities to play an active role with regional and local governments to encourage climate-friendly and energy-efficient development in their service areas.
- Work with California's Congressional delegation to ensure that future federal highway and other transportation and land use-related legislation and programs include energy reduction and climate stabilization considerations.
Energy Commission Documents
- Energy Aware Planning Guide (2011 Edition)
The Energy Aware Planning Guide, developed by the California Energy Commission in 1993 and updated in 2011, is a comprehensive resource for local governments seeking to reduce energy use, improve energy efficiency, and increase usage of renewable energy across all sectors. Wiser use of energy resources can lead to cost savings for local governments, residents, and businesses; reinvestment in the local economy; improved quality of life and public health; increased compliance with state and federal goals; and a more secure future. Additionally, strategies to reduce energy consumption promote progress towards aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals laid out in Assembly Bill 32 (Núñez Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006), California's Global Warming Solutions Act.
- SANDAG Sustainable Region Program Action Plan
The Energy Commission helped the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and others design a program to help local governments develop energy management plans and implement cost-saving energy measures. The SANDAG Sustainable Region Program Action Plan provides general guidance to local governments that don't employ full-time energy staff and have had little experience with energy efficiency programs. It is designed to work along with the SANDAG Sustainable Region Program Toolkit, which contains a template for completing twelve tasks necessary for the development of a sustainable region program. As attachment D, the toolkit also offers a sample local government energy assessment report.
- 2007 Integrated Energy Policy Report (See Chapter 8)
- California Leadership on Land Use and Climate Change, presentation by Panama Bartholomy, Senior Advisor to Commisioner Karen Douglas, at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, Washington, D.C., February 8, 2008. (PDF file, 28 pgs., 564 kb)
- Carbon Sequestration Through Changes in Land Use In Washington: Costs and Opportunities, publication # CEC-500-2007-075, January 2008. (PDF file, 96 pgs., 5.7 MB)
- Carbon Sequestration Through Changes in Land Use In Oregon: Costs and Opportunities, publication # CEC-500-2007-074, January 2008. (PDF file, 100 pgs., 6.8 MB)
- The Role of Land Use in Meeting California's Energy and Climate Change Goals - Staff Final Report, publication # CEC-600-2007-008-SF, August 2007. (PDF file, 92 pgs., 3.1 MB)
- Effect of Land Use Choices on Transportation Fuel Demand, publication # CEC-500-2005-019, May 2005. (PDF file, 25 pgs., 692 kb)
- A Review of Land Use/Land Cover and Agricultural Change Models, publication # CEC-500-2005-056, April 2005. (PDF file, 18 pgs., 291 kb)
- California Smart Growth Energy Savings MPO Survey Findings, publication # P600-01-021F, September 2001. (PDF file, 35 pgs., 1.2 MB)
Links, Papers, and Other Materials
- Funders' Network: For Smart Growth and Livable Communities
- National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education
- National Geographic: "The New Suburb" Virtual Tour
- Natural Resources Defense Council: Smart Growth
- Smart Growth America
- Smart Growth Online
- Urban Land Institute: Smart Growth
- US EPA: Smart Growth
- Smart growth and the transportation - Land use connection: What does the research tell us? , paper by Susan Handy, University of California, Davis