January’s Book of the Month is The Very Hungry City: Urban Energy Efficiency and the Economic Fate of Cities by Austin Troy. This accessible book explores how cities around the world consume energy, assesses innovative ideas for reducing urban energy consumption and discusses why energy efficiency will determine which cities thrive economically in the future.
As the issue of climate change slowly creeps up the news agenda (unfortunately, it’s still somewhere near the bottom), more of us are looking for ways to understand it, and more importantly, learn what can be done. In recent years, the issues of energy efficiency and economics have become central to the debate – these are, after all, the issues big corporations responsible for the effects of climate change are most interested in. The lesson that is slowly being learnt is that as the global demand for energy grows and prices rise, high energy consumption ultimately becomes financially unsustainable. It is now in the economic interest of big businesses to look for alternative ways to generate and consume energy.
However, it is not just large corporations that need to watch their energy consumption for financial reasons. A city’s energy consumption is also becoming increasingly tied to its economic viability. This is the warning of Austin Troy, associate professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.
Troy is the author of The Very Hungry City, a new book from Yale that looks specifically at the environmental issues surrounding cities. In his book Troy, a seasoned expert in urban environmental management, explains for general readers how a city with a high ‘urban energy metabolism’ – that is, a city that needs large amounts of energy in order to function – will be at a competitive disadvantage in the future. He explores why cities have different energy metabolisms and discusses an array of innovative approaches to the problems of expensive energy consumption.
Troy looks at dozens of cities and suburbs in Europe and the United States – from Los Angeles to Copenhagen, Denver to the Swedish urban redevelopment project Hammarby Sjostad – to understand the diverse factors that affect their energy use: behaviour, climate, water supply, building quality, transportation, and others. He then assesses some of the most imaginative solutions that cities have proposed, among them green building, energy-efficient neighbourhoods, symbiotic infrastructure, congestion pricing, transit-oriented development, and water conservation.
To conclude, Troy addresses planning and policy approaches that can bring about change and transform the best ideas into real solutions. The Very Hungry City is a refreshing and accessible book that will interest those looking to learn more about the environmental impact of cities, but also offers practical solutions for a new generation of city planners, policy makers and business leaders.
The Very Hungry City: Urban Energy Efficiency and the Economic Fate of Cities is available now from Yale University Press
Austin Troy is associate professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, and principal and cofounder of Spatial Informatics Group, LLC, a consulting company that works in the intersection of environment, economics, and spatial analysis. He served four years on the Burlington, VT, Planning Commission.