Knowing where we get our energy supplies—particularly those sources that are nonrenewable—and understanding the consequences associated with energy waste will help us use energy more efficiently.

Our most common forms of energy are coal and natural gas to create electricity and heat, and petroleum (gasoline) for transportation. When we harness energy through burning fossil fuels, greenhouse gases are released into the environment. Energy use (in buildings, for transportation or elsewhere) is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in San Antonio as it is in most U.S. cities. Global climate change is caused by greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere faster than the Earth’s natural systems can reabsorb them.

Increasing renewable energy production and decreasing energy consumption through land use policy and energy conservation practices can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the Earth’s climate change.

Residents, the business community and institutions can use less energy through simple conservation techniques. The City can provide incentives and programs that promote energy conservation, increased production of renewable energy sources, expand incentives and requirements for green building standards and encourage further investment in energy conservation education and incentives.

The City can serve as an example through a municipal energy reduction program; the new Energy Management Division (EMD) oversees efforts to maximize water and energy efficiency in City-owned buildings and facilities. Municipal operations, however, represent only a small percentage of the total electricity and natural gas used throughout the city—community-wide efforts are essential to achieving overall reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Buildings account for over 90% of electricity consumption in San Antonio. The City’s ability to influence energy efficiency in existing buildings will be critical to achieving our sustainability goals. However, a large-scale municipally supported retrofit program has yet to be implemented. Similarly, green infrastructure efforts are concentrated in a handful of programs and are often driven by nonprofit advocacy organizations rather than institutionalized by the City.

Another significant way to conserve energy use is to reduce automobile use and the related vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The City can use regulatory authority in important areas like land use, building and transportation policy. As a result, San Antonio endorses land use and transportation policies and practices that encourage compact, mixed-use, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly and transit-oriented development. These policies influence travel patterns and reduce vehicle miles traveled.