The first step in developing a sustainable energy strategy is to create an Energy Map. We use a software called e!Sankey that displays energy use and emissions in graphic similar to the US Energy Information Administration’s annual flow charts for the United States.
We like this tool for two reasons. First, it is straightforward to create. We use basic energy purchase data from local electric and natural gas utilities, as well as estimates of vehicle miles traveled from the local metropolitan planning organization. After some basic Excel spreadsheeting, we calculate and plug the energy and carbon values by source and sector into Sankey software that mimics the EIA’s national graphic.
Second, energy use is shown relatively: the boxes and flow lines are proportionally sized to reflect the relative percentages that solar and coal, for example, contribute to electricity generation. Likewise, the graphic makes visually clear how much energy the community’s residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors use compared to one another, and which fuels power them. When we project this on a big screen during a community workshop, community leaders and stakeholders can see in full color which sources and sectors are their greatest liabilities—or priorities—in terms of energy and carbon reduction.