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Community Strategic Energy Plan

Metropolitan Energy Commission

Tucson/Pima County
Summer 1995

In 1991 the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson and the Pima County Board of Supervisors directed the Metropolitan Energy Commission (MEC) to initiate a strategic planning process examining potential long-term changes in metropolitan Tucson's energy situation. This process was used to evaluate and recommend strategies to address energy issues.

Since that time, the Commission has completed a Metropolitan Tucson Energy Assessment which includes data and information needed to understand the community's energy situation. Public Technology, Inc. was retained to perform a nationwide survey of local and state energy planning programs and to analyze major national and international influences on the local energy situation. A series of focus groups was held to further assess local energy needs and perspectives. Graduate students from the University of Arizona provided information from local interviews, and the MEC was a participant (with the City of Tucson) for a telephone survey on citizen energy views. In addition, MEC members researched and studied these data and discussed relevant issues with experts and practitioners to effectively develop this Community Strategic Energy Plan.

Appointed by the Mayor and Council and the Board of Supervisors, MEC is comprised of citizens serving without pay whose function is to advise these governing bodies regarding community issues and concerns related to energy.

This Strategic Energy Plan is a community plan that is designed as an ongoing, future-oriented, action-focused process to mobilize and empower the community to deal effectively with its energy situation.

No plan is effective unless it is implemented. An essential part of this plan is found in the last section, Role of Community Catalysts: List of Possible Actions. Implementation is based on the idea that a community plan must be implemented by members of the community. This is not a simple task. The Metropolitan Energy Commission can assist in bringing community groups together for implementation. But in the long run, the plan will only be as good as the effort put in by the community as a whole.

Other communities have made progress in similar efforts toward energy efficiency and use of renewable sources. Examples include: Austin, Texas (Green Builder Program); Portland, Oregon (Community Energy Plan); and Davis, California (Village Homes). Their experiences indicate what can be done.


Energy is an essential ingredient in our quality of life and our economic future. By understanding how energy is used currently and what possible changes could take place with or without our control, we can better define how we should deal with this important topic. The following observations provide background as you read this strategic plan:
  • Energy is basic to our way of life. It provides us a high standard of living with comfort, mobility and convenience while reducing the amount of human labor. It runs the machines we use to sustain and enhance our modern lifestyle, but energy use also has its costs and problems.

  • Significant improvements have been made during the last decade in energy efficiency and conservation. However, many current energy consumption practices are causing problems that have environmental, economic and social costs and make the community vulnerable to economic disruption.

  • Our view of energy is undergoing change. We are moving from a world of large supplies of commonly accepted energy sources to a new world of using alternative sources. We are beginning to use energy more wisely in relation to economic and environmental considerations and to accept alternatives to familiar sources.

  • This transition period will not necessarily be smooth. The purpose of this plan is to serve as a road map to navigate these changing energy times. The Community Strategic Energy Plan outlines key issues related to energy use in the metropolitan area and identifies examples of possible strategies that can impact those issues in a positive way.


The impacts of acquiring and using energy go beyond the boundaries of our community. While oil resources are abundant worldwide, increased oil imports from potentially precarious sources (now exceeding 50% of U. S. oil consumption) weaken our national security (through dependence and needs for protecting supplies).
  • National and global trends affect Tucson's situation. Domestic supplies of fossil fuels are limited (particularly oil). The bulk of the known oil reserves are located in politically vulnerable areas. Such sources are becoming more costly in environmental, social, economic and geo-political terms. Nuclear power has proven to be far more costly and controversial than expected.

  • The energy mix and role of energy efficiency will change. Looking to the future, reducing energy waste and enhancing renewable energy will be increasingly preferred alternatives to today's oil based energy uses.

  • New products continue to be more energy efficient. New automobiles, buildings, and appliances all have improved energy ratings. As these new additions to the existing stock occur, overall energy efficiencies will increase. For example, if improvements were made in all Tucson new housing units, and the number of these units grew at only 2% annually, at the end of 35 years half the housing units would include the new improvements.

  • There is much to be gained from choosing a new course soon. By changing our energy mix and improving energy efficiency, we would have not only a healthier environment, but also a healthier and stronger economy.


The Tucson metropolitan area spends more than a billion dollars for energy each year. Much of this money leaves the community and is therefore unavailable for reinvestment or for other uses by individual citizens, business, industry, or government. Tucson has some unique characteristics which relate to how we might develop and use energy in the future.
  • Tucson uses 127 trillion BTU of energy per year. Tucson's principal energy sources (for 1992 year) are petroleum (57%) , natural gas (23%), electricity (18%), and coal (2%). These come to us over distances ranging from hundreds of miles to the other side of the world.

  • The bulk of Tucson's energy use is for transportation. Our transportation accounts for 52%, with industry at 28%, residential at 15%, and commercial/government at 11% (for 1992 year). Almost half of the transportation is for personal use.

  • Tucson's single major energy resource, solar energy, is enormous but still far under utilized. Passive solar design (e.g., building orientation, shading), photovoltaic cells for electricity, and industrial process heat are easy targets for greater use. Solar energy allows electricity to be produced without connection to the electricity grid.

  • Arizonans spend over $6 billion per year on energy (1991). This is 1/10 th of our Gross State Product. Tucson's share was around $1.2 billion; over 70% of that money leaves the community in the form of payment for energy supplies.

  • Better energy use can stimulate the local economy. If there were only a 10% improvement in energy efficiency, feasible within the capabilities of current technology and knowledge, we would add at least $100 million annually to the local economy. If we did this, we could then have the funding to employ more people improving energy efficiency or developing alternative sources. This would then allow even more gains in moving money from paying for energy to using it for community economic growth.

Some sectors have done better than others. Industry has been most successful an reducing its portion through serious energy efficiency efforts. The commercial and residential sectors could make substantial gains by addressing the building envelope and selected appliances. While individual vehicle efficiency standards are established nationally, improvements in traffic flow and ride sharing are still possible.


Over 150 people were involved in various focus groups and small group meetings to better understand what the community thinks.
  • Energy is a complex issue in Tucson/Pima County. There are numerous constituencies; some favor strong local governmental policies and ordinances while others seek minimal governmental intervention.

  • There are conflicting views regarding solar and renewable technologies. Essentially all participants felt these technologies had a role in the future but there were mixed feelings as to whether they could "replace" traditional sources at present. Virtually all agreed the renewable technologies would become more important as the costs of traditional energy sources rise.

  • Education and information are important. Most participants believed community education was one of the most important energy issues, including strong support for governmental efforts. Providing demonstrations and publicizing positive solutions was also favored.

  • There is a need for an information clearing house. There needs to be a centralized local resource for interested organizations to find out about energy related programs.

  • Local government needs to be action-oriented. Many participants felt the city and county should play a facilitating role in supporting demonstration projects or private-public partnerships (such as solar energy projects, energy and water efficient landscaping, and alternative building designs). The proposed Civano (Solar Village) development was cited as a positive example that would incorporate all these factors. Government was also seen as needing to remove barriers and focus on incentives rather than develop regulations.

  • There are inconsistencies in local governmental energy policy. These inconsistencies need to be resolved if the city and county governments are to foster a successful energy policy. There was a perception that the government view was one of "do as I say and not as I do." A frequently expressed view was that someone (and government was implied) ought to be looking at the whole context of energy consumption, for integrated solutions to community energy use. This approach should replace our current lack of incentives and existence of barriers to change.


To be successful in determining our energy future, the community (e.g., business, citizens, education, government, and other organizations) will need to be active in these areas:

1. Leadership

  • Develop agreement toward the need for understanding changes in our energy choices.
  • Include energy issues early in any decision process and in a comprehensive manner, particularly for transportation, new construction, and renovation.
  • Recognize that improvements in energy use should be monitored continuously because of changing conditions.
2. Education
  • Share information among colleagues and others.
  • Share case histories and make new and existing information readily available.
  • Actively use public and private media, including print and electronic, to inform people of options and facts.

3. Economics

  • Compare economic alternatives and highlight the value of energy savings by using life-cyclecosting (cost of annual energy use over life of product compared to cost of purchase).
  • Provide realistic incentives and remove barriers for energy users and providers.
  • Reinvest savings from reduced energy use into continuing efforts and leverage funds for new sources of energy.
4. Technology
  • Be open to new designs and evaluate new options.
  • Use voluntary rating systems and energy codes/guidelines.
  • Recognize that technology is changing rapidly - stay current.


Creating a more desirable energy future is a complex process that requires broad community involvement for good decision making. We need to look at energy issues from different points of view and develop strategies that will move us through this transition period successfully. Energy use absorbs capital, has environmental impacts, and disproportionally has negative effects on lower income neighborhoods. Energy cannot be separated from other community topics such as economic development, transportation, land use, housing, and recreation.

Listed below are four strategic goals. They provide a framework for looking at the energy situation and will help stimulate thought and organize the planning process. For each goal, a question is raised and three broad examples are provided to add clarification.

1. Increase community benefits by more efficient energy use

How can the we reduce energy waste and provide the benefits of energy efficiency to the community?
  • Educate everyone on what is already available to do this.
  • Use improved technology (e.g., solar, efficiency).
  • Promote solutions targeted to the end user such as alternate resources or reduction in energy demand.
2. Improve the energy supply

How can we better assure continued availability of energy?
  • Support efforts to reduce our dependency on imported oil without simply exhausting our domestic oil.
  • Diversify to a more balanced mix of energy sources.
  • Increase use of local energy sources as they become more economical.
3. Protect against the negative impacts of energy use

How can the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts and costs of energy be reduced?
  • Improve efficiencies of existing energy use.
  • Develop renewable energy sources.
  • Focus on transportation and building life-cycle costing.
4. Work together to achieve a desirable energy future

How can leadership be developed to most effectively find solutions to the community's energy problems? How can our citizens become better informed about and take action on energy related options available to them?
  • Develop local leadership in energy matters.
  • Expand the knowledge and information base through education (including school curricula, mass media, and specialized means).
  • Provide direct and clearinghouse information to help citizens become better informed.


The major conclusion is that Tucson has a choice about its energy future.
  • We can either continue down the current energy consumption path and endure the consequences, or
  • We can build a new future by changing our patterns of energy use.

The Metropolitan Energy Commission recommends the second option. Specific conclusions that lead to that choice are:

  • We have some problems related to energy costs in our community and the potential impacts those costs have on the environment. These can be addressed by focusing on waste reduction through improved energy efficiency and the use of more solar energy. This approach toward the wise use of energy will make the metropolitan Tucson area a healthier, safer, and more prosperous community.

  • We can do something to improve the energy situation in Tucson. Buildings can be more comfortable and waste less energy through better design and construction. Transportation alternatives can contribute to a cleaner and healthier community. Major public and private employers, through their construction and operations procedures, can help lead the way and serve as models for this and other communities.

  • Tucson can change and in so doing improve the quality of life. Tucson has obvious and important advantages over many other communities. The use of our solar energy resource can become significant in the years to come. Tucson has a substantial academic and corporate technology base that includes skilled people. There is strong community support for solar energy and energy efficiency. The combination of these advantages coupled with our growth rate allows us to make changes more easily and to become known as a "Model City" for dealing effectively with our energy needs.

  • We must actively begin solving these problems and not just wait for solutions to appear.

Timing can make a big difference. By seizing an early and active leadership role, Tucson can encourage local business growth, attract industries from other parts of the country and foster new economic development.


Plans that do not assign accountability for implementation are, in most cases, plans that never achieve their purpose. Plans that do not involve the participants are never successful in the long run. The next phase of the planning process includes these implementation processes:

  • Gain approval of this plan by the Mayor and Council of the City of Tucson and by the Board of Supervisors of Pima County. Following approval, the plan should be presented to business, industry, professional, non-profit and citizens groups throughout the metropolitan area. The Metropolitan Energy Commission can assist in this process.

  • The Metropolitan Energy Commission will identify "community energy catalysts" - specific groups of individuals and organizations to develop and implement strategies that will address important energy issues in a positive way. These catalysts (groups of people focusing on one aspect of energy) would develop Action Plans and be responsible for the implementation of those Action Plans .

  • Provide support to community energy catalyst teams. Appropriate government bodies with the cooperation of community groups like the Metropolitan Energy Commission will take on the task of supporting, encouraging, and recognizing those community catalysts as they address energy issues.

  • Conduct periodic assessments of progress toward more efficient community energy use. This assessment will determine what progress has been made in the development and implementation of action plans. It will also identify any appropriate revisions to this plan to reflect the future realities. It will include estimates of energy and money saved as a result of the Community Strategic Energy Plan. The Metropolitan Tucson Energy Assessment will be done initially by the Metropolitan Energy Commission; results will be reported to the community.

Specific examples of ways to accomplish the strategic goals in this report are found in the following section. These examples are intended to assist the community energy catalysts (groups of people focusing on one aspect of energy) in developing more specific short-term action plans and to provide guidance for monitoring progress.

List of Potential Actions

Strategic plans often are ineffective without someone to shepherd the plan along. In our community setting, we believe it necessary to have a team of community representatives to do this, and we should identify the team as a catalyst for getting the plan realized. This is the critical step in implementing this Community Strategic Energy Plan; the Metropolitan Energy Commission can play an organizing role but the community must be involved in the actual implementation.

Below is a list of four areas for potential priorities and action items, organized by sectors (buildings, transportation, local government and community), or by type of activity (education and information). This list has examples of actions that the community catalysts could choose to implement to benefit the Tucson community. Other examples will be found through continually reviewing what others have done and what people in the Tucson metropolitan area have found effective in their own organizations. Once an action item is selected by the community energy catalyst groups, the Metropolitan Energy Commission will track the status of the activity.

1. Buildings: Promote energy efficiency, energy conservation, and the use of renewable energy sources in new and existing buildings.

  • Encourage energy efficiency, energy conservation, and the use of active and passive solar energy and other renewables in building design and construction (especially through incentives).
  • Improve building orientation and placement in site planning to optimize energy efficiency.
  • Develop and expand the Civano program (Tucson Solar Village)
  • Create incentives for consumers to purchase and use energy efficiency and renewable energy products and services.
  • Encourage the financial community to offer mortgage incentives (energy efficient mortgages) that take into account the energy efficiency of the building.
  • Develop codes and standards that encourage energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of renewable energy resources. Structure building codes that provide incentives for energy efficiency rather than simple minimum standards.
  • Design and implement building energy rating systems for homes
  • and businesses.
  • Create demonstrations with developers/builders (e.g., in siting, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources).

2. Transportation: Encourage improvements in traffic flow, travel reductions, effective public transportation, and vehicles that use alternative fuels.

  • Improve traffic flow and signalization (e.g., timing) throughout the metropolitan area.
  • Encourage travel reductions such as car-pooling, compressed work weeks, and tel-commuting.
  • Encourage the use of alternative fuels, including electricity and natural gas, in private and public vehicles.
  • Develop and implement effective and affordable public transportation.
  • Establish major corridors for alternative transportation that are significant and useful.
  • Include bicycle lanes in all new roads and improvements.
  • Address energy implications in all land use planning (such as street layout and design).
  • Require safe, continuous, and inviting sidewalks or walk ways for pedestrians along all streets.
  • Investigate creative zoning for mixed uses and address atypical work, recreating, and living patterns.
3. Local Government and Community: Encourage the use of good energy practices by the City and County as a model for others in the community.

  • Provide community leadership by becoming a catalyst and model for creativity and innovation in energy matters.
  • Develop and implement energy efficiency standards for all City and County buildings, including design and retrofit projects.
  • Participate in national and regional consortiums, such as the Green Lights and Clean Cities programs, as a model to others.
  • Use solar energy and other renewable sources in City and County projects as a model for others in the community.
  • Work with other levels of government and with private groups to establish guidelines for energy use.
  • Consider energy issues as part of standard City and County planning and operations, e.g., by using life-cycle costing in economic analyses.
  • Seek and encourage a more diverse and balanced supply of energy. Emphasize and promote local energy supplies and production.
  • Maintain and update contingency plans in case of disrupted oil supply.
  • Encourage programs for addressing energy costs for low income households.
  • Encourage local economic development in renewable energy sources/technologies and energy conservation.
  • Promote xeriscape and planting of drought tolerant trees to reduce water use and increase shading.
4. Education and Information: Encourage the citizens of Tucson to implement energy efficiency measures and use renewable energy in their homes and businesses.

  • Encourage the implementation of energy efficiency and conservation measures in building design, construction, and retrofit of existing structures.
  • Encourage citizens to use solar and renewable energy products and services.
  • Create incentives for environmental technology businesses that produce and market energy efficient and renewable energy products and services.
  • Support community partnerships for environmental and technological development.
  • Create an Energy Information Center to inform citizens regarding techniques for energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy, as well as other energy matters.
  • Create a directory of local businesses offering energy efficiency and renewable energy products and services.
  • Design and implement demonstration projects which illustrate efficient energy use and renewable energy sources and technologies.
  • Develop and then promote Tucson as one of the "Solar Capitals of the World".
  • Recognize those who are doing good work in the area of energy conservation and renewable energy and share their success stories.
  • Encourage ongoing research and collection of data related to energy matters.
  • Develop programs directed at school children.

Commission Members

The 16 members of the Metropolitan Energy Commission are appointed by the City of Tucson Mayor and Council and the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Previous members that were involved in the course of development of this Community Strategic Energy plan are indicated with an * mark.

Steven Bragg, Barry Burdett, Roger Caldwell, Mary Ann Chapman, Robert Cook, Doug Crockett, David Eisenberg, *David Elwood, Anita Goldberg, Rick Gonzales, *Paul Huddy, *Marianne Langer, *Alan Lurie, *Larry Medlin, Charles Miessner, Alan Nichols, Martha O'Brien, *James Riley, Charlene Robinson, *Patrick Scharff, Jeff Schlegel, James Sell, Winona Smith, *Vivian Swearingen, and Jeanne Turner.

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