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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Is New York the greenest city in the US?

Do you know that the gasoline consumption for transportation in Manhattan is the lowest compared to any other city in the US? And the same is true for fossil fuel consumption for heating of houses and offices?

Green Metropolis is a book by David Owen that challenges the common thinking about being sustainable, green, and environmental-friendly.
The tagline gives you a hint: "Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability".

However, the key idea of the book is deeper.

The author will try to convince you that instead of relying on people's commitment, cities should be designed in a way that makes sustainable living possible. For example, you cannot encourage urban sprawl and then force those people living far from the city to behave in a greener way. They will need their own car to go to work, just because public transportation cannot be efficient when people are living far apart one from the other.

A similar reasoning extends to distributed generation and energy efficient buildings. Most of the people think that making their house or office environmental-friendly is a matter of buying "gadgets", spending money of expensive features (and this is the idea behind green-certification like LEED). This book, among other things, shows that this idea is not true. People can make their houses greener just by doing some choices which are almost cost-free. And in many cases the way cities and neighbourhoods are structured strongly affects the energy consumption of their inhabitants.

The smart grid idea is not too far from this analysis. Making the grid smarter, cleaner and greener is not a matter of buying new smart gadgets or smart devices. Or at least it is not only that. The whole architecture must be optimized in a way that allows, for example, distributed generation to happen in an energy efficient, stable, and safe way.

Sometimes this re-design process will require new devices, smart electronics, and smart meters , sometimes it will only require some intelligence to be put into the existing devices, for example in the smart electronic interfaces that already equip every micro generator and every grid-connected inverter.

This book is strongly suggested to readers that want to know what should change in our houses, our cities, and our society to reduce our energy demand, and make our lifestyle really greener and more sustainable.