Obtaining Economic Growth from Energy Consumption in Urban Areas

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

In the world in the last 60 years, energy consumption increased unexpectedly long (Wagner, 2010); the world is consuming today by six times more energy than half a century ago. This entails a high consumption of conventional resources, namely a decrease in reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, increases pollution and contributes to global warming. Understanding the danger that affects not only the present but also the future, numerous warning signs were drawn, and the first one was of the Club of Rome in 1972. The document called Limits to Growth, are addressed elements like: population growth, the impact of industrialization, the effects of pollution, food production and natural resource depletion trends (National Centre for Sustainable Development, 2008). Five years later in the report Our Common Future by World Commission on Environment and Development, appears the first definition of sustainable development. Since then, all policies, strategies, conventions began to be built upon sustainable development in order to achieve sustainable living.

Given that multiple social, health and environmental problems are related to urban areas, it is absolutely necessary to act in order to obtain quality of life in these poles of growth which are cities. Nowadays, 2% of the Earth's surface is covered by cities which embed half of the world's population. European Environment Agency (2010) states that in Europe, 75% of the population lives in cities and the tendency is to grow to 80% by the year 2020. It also specifies that cities are those that are responsible for 69% of the total energy use, determining this way the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Therefore, a first opinion about cities has been expressed: even though cities are poles of growth with influence on all kinds of activities in our lives, they are poles for energy use, water utilization, overall consumption and waste generation.

A second opinion suggests that cities offer important opportunities for sustainable living. The explanation lies on the effect of population's density, meaning shorter time to get to work, better utilization of transportation means and smaller houses that need less lighting and heating. This opinion leads the impression that, the energy consumption will be smaller and that the demand for energy could decrease. Totally wrong, because the energy consumption had an increasingly tendency for the last half of century and shows no signs of decline.

As demand for energy will not diminish but will likely increase further, everyone looks for solutions that ensure a sustainable future in this field. One of the five interrelated goals set out in a Communication of the European Commission (2010): An European Strategy for smart, ecological growth and favorable to inclusion, refers to "reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 20% below the levels in 1990 (...); increase to 20% the share of renewables in final energy consumption and increase energy efficiency by 20%."

Romania is taking into account these objectives, trying to increase usage of renewable energy from 17.8% in 2005 to 24% in 2020, to reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 21% and use 10% biofuels by 2020.

In the same time, our country has been "allowed to increase GHG emissions by 19% for sectors of small polluters", GHG meaning Greenhouse Gases (Leca & Musatescu, 2010). We can appreciate that this statement is wrong or not related to that mentioned in the target. However, it is quite true, and an idea that comes to support the statement, is the following: high energy consumption can be a stimulus for economic growth in developing countries; these countries may therefore be allowed to pollute more than developed countries (Amirat & Bouri, 2008).

It was also shown to be valid also the inverse relationship, meaning it was found that economic growth can lead to increased energy consumption. …

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