Online Resources for Low-Carbon Energy and Development

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An important series of meetings on the Climate Investment Funds, hosted by the African Development Bank, began June 20 in Cape Town, South Africa. At one of the first events, discussion focused on how individual households, communities, cities, companies, and nations find and use tools to develop low-carbon, pro-growth, gender-sensitive, pro-access energy solutions. A key factor in this process is access to:

  • information on technologies and policies
  • tools to build integrated plans for the energy sector at small and large-scale.

At a session on lessons drawn from energy efficiency and renewable energy experiences, I promised to share a preliminary list of websites and online tools to assist local groups and communities gain control of the energy planning process. Here it is:

Low-Carbon Energy and Development Planning Tools

World Bank Low Carbon Development Portal –This comprehensive website provides direct access to a wide range of low-carbon development studies at the community, city, region, national, and global levels, including low-carbon studies (both documents and models) in Brazil and Mexico, rural communities in Nicaragua, as well as Nigeria and Kenya. 

HEAT and TRACE - This portal provides access and documentation for a number of individual models, including:

  • HEAT (Hands-on Energy Adaptation Toolkit),
  • TRACE (Tool for Rapid Assessment of City Energy)

ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program) - A general portal for myriad reports and models (including HEAT and TRACE) via the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program at the World Bank Group

HOMER Energy (Hybrid Renewable Energy Optimization Tool) - The HOMER energy modeling software is a powerful tool for designing and analyzing hybrid power systems, which contain a mix of conventional generators, cogeneration, wind turbines, solar photovoltaics, hydropower, batteries, fuel cells, hydropower, biomass and other inputs.  It is used by tens of thousands of people worldwide. For grid-tied or off-grid environments, HOMER helps determine how variable resources such as wind and solar can be integrated optimally into hybrid systems.

LEAP (Long range Energy Alternatives Planning System) - LEAP is a widely-used software tool for energy policy analysis and climate change mitigation assessment developed at the Stockholm Environment Institute. LEAP has been adopted by hundreds of organizations in over 150 countries.  Users include government agencies, academics, NGOs, consulting companies, and energy utilities.

UPLAN-NPM (The UPLAN Network Power Model) - The UPLAN project details physical and financial operations of electricity markets under conditions ranging from traditional regulation to today’s post-restructuring competitive market structures

(EGEAS) Electric Generation Expansion Analysis System - A modular production costing, generation expansion software package for use by utility planners to evaluate integrated resource plans, independent power producers, avoided costs and plant life management programs. It also has new modules added to accommodate demand-side management options and to facilitate the development of environmental compliance plans.

Building Energy Use

These two directories provide tools to assess energy use in buildings, one from the U. S. Department of Energy, and the other from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). There are a few specialized building-specific tools not covered by the directories:

Carbon Footprinting Tools for Individuals, Communities and Companies

CoolClimate Household Carbon Footprint CalculatorThis calculator enables individuals or households in the U.S. to calculate their carbon footprints to get customized advice on managing their impact. The Take Action page recommends tailored pledges to reduce carbon footprints and save money. Users can also see how they compare to households of similar size, location and income, or compare themselves to state, national and global averages. This calculator is based at the University of California Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and comes in versions tailored to individuals, cities, businesses, as well as others adapted to specific locations.

National Geographic Great Energy Challenge - This is an interactive tool to calculate your personal carbon footprint based on information specific to your location.

Climate Culture This calculator, with pledges in money and CO2, login/save, is linked to “Eco” products to help reduce one’s carbon footprint. 

Phillips “A Simple Switch” -   This basic calculator, animated with sounds and images, provides a rough estimate of footprint and assigns a “color” of your energy. Attractive, but not very accurate. 

World Wildlife Fund Calculator - A version of the “cool climate calculator” form the University of California, Berkeley (the U.S. edition), but now augmented with UK and other national cases as well.

Global footprint network -Ecological Footprint Calculator -This tool’s user interface shows how many “earths” it would take to sustain the planet if everyone lived like you.

Conservation International -This short calculator factors in living conditions, automobile data and air travel.  Not in-depth but offers a quick estimate of your carbon footprint and suggests how much money it takes to offset your footprint.

The Nature Conservancy - This US-based calculator calculates for individuals or households by American state and offers tips at the end, along with piecharts. 

The Carbon Neutral Company: Calculate your household or personal transportation footprint; the site divides us into two categories: "North America" or "Europe & the rest of the world."

EPA Household Emissions Calculator - An excellent, in-depth calculator that takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. Issues covered include home energy use, household vehicle use, recycling and more. There are handy recommendations and questions at the end such as, "You could turn down your thermostat by 5 degrees — will you do this?"

EarthLab -This calculator breaks down vehicle information by car type, and gives you your own carbon Web page, on which you can make green pledges and learn how to lower your footprint.



Daniel Kammen

Former Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

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