5.1 Introduction

Transportation accounts for over 40% of U.S. energy end use, and over 95% of that transportation runs on oil. Lighting, heating and cooling buildings also consumes an enormous amount of energy, much (but not all) of it powered by electricity. But we can’t simply replace all our cars with electric models, convert all our heating and air conditioning to electric heat pumps, and power it all with massive amounts of new renewable energy. Instead, the renewable future will require deep rethinking of how we design our communities and build the infrastructure that serves them.

The transition to 100% renewable energy raises profound questions for the future of our communities and infrastructure. For instance:

  • Can we produce enough renewable energy to power all the cars and trucks we have today? If not, how should our transportation system change? And what does that mean for land use patterns?
  • What infrastructure—from highways to power lines—do we need for a 100% renewable future? What infrastructure can be retrofitted, and what needs to be built new?
  • We know how to build net-positive-energy buildings; but what will it take make the entire building stock net-positive? Is it possible to construct building using only renewable energy?
  • Are the architecture, construction, engineering, and planning industries getting ready for a 100% renewable future? Is local government?

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