Quick Tips for Cities – Energy Efficiency and Climate Adaptation

Part two of Quick Tips Series:

There is growing conversation among the public and private sector about what steps need to be taken to improve community resilience in the face of climate change. A very holistic approach must be taken including improving food security, investing in green infrastructure, giving a voice to vulnerable communities,  implementing resilience standards, and reducing risks to public health to name a few.

I would suggest that cities include in this list energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is typically seen as a climate mitigation measure and not as an adaptation measure. It lowers greenhouse gases, improves air quality and lowers water consumption through a variety of energy saving measures. By being more energy efficient we have shown significant reductions in our energy intensity and have saved a tremendous amount of money in the process. There is still significant opportunities for reducing energy consumption. According to recent EPRI report the state of Texas could save an additional 87.3 million MWh in the next 20 years. At the average retail electricity price for Texas, that would reduce costs by about $7 billion. This is great. We need to continue these energy efficiency efforts to mitigate climate change, but we also need to expand its scope and look at it reducing climate risk, particularly to vulnerable communities.

One of the more significant issues we are facing with climate change is the increase of our global temperature. We have seen new record breaking yearly temperature averages every year for the last several years. This has a significant impact on our communities. Through energy efficiency we can reduce these impacts. For example, the weatherization of homes, which can include insulation, weather stripping, caulking, high efficiency lighting, etc, is typically done to reduce a home owners or renter’s housing costs. However, weatherization , and improved building energy codes, also allows households to stay home when the power goes out. The better insulated and sealed homes stay cooler or warmer, depending on the season, when the power goes out. This puts less pressure on our emergency management agencies and reduces risk to our communities. Further, energy efficiency measures such as white or green roofs, not only lower energy costs by keeping buildings cooler, they also lessen the heat island effect in urban areas, thereby reducing ambient temperature and reducing the impacts of extreme heat. Finally, combined heat and power, aka cogeneration, has typically been touted as improving the efficiency of building operations and lowering operating costs of a facility. However, we have witnessed in recent years the significant benefit of CHP in keeping the power on during and after natural disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy.

There are some great resources to learn more about the benefits of energy efficiency to improve community resilience. You can check them out here:


Published by

Gavin Dillingham

Program Director for Clean Energy Policy at HARC a sustainability research institute in The Woodlands, TX. Work on climate adaptation and investment strategies for resilient infrastructure.

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